Britain’s Mark Cavendish claimed the 21st Tour de France stage win of his remarkable career with an opportunist victory Monday in Tournai.
The 207km second stage from Vise was always expected to end in a bunch sprint and Cavendish hit the front in the final meter to pip German Andre Greipel on the line.
Swiss Fabian Cancellara stayed in the race leader’s yellow jersey after finishing safely in the pack.
With his Team Sky teammates concentrating on delivering Bradley Wiggins to overall victory in the three-week race, Cavendish was, in his words, “completely alone” in the final kilometer rather than having his usual lead-out train.
It confirmed where Sky’s priorities ultimately lie, but the 27-year-old Cavendish is content to rely on his own abilities.
Wiggins remained in second place overall while defending champion Cadel Evans and the other main favorites also came through unscathed.
After the inevitable breakaway was pulled in, all the teams attempted to position their sprint specialists for the final charge for the line.
Cavendish jumped from wheel to wheel before launching his bid, coming around arch-rival and former HTC-Highroad teammate Greipel to grab the glory.
We are here for the yellow jersey so I knew it was always going to be difficult
Australian Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) finished third and all three are set to battle for honors on the flat stages which favor out and out sprinters.
Slovakian Peter Sagan, so impressive in winning the first stage in Seraing Sunday, showed he is no slouch in a bunch sprint by taking sixth place to hold on to the green jersey, won last year by Cavendish.