PARIS, (Reuters) – Mark Cavendish polished his reputation as one of cycling’s best ever sprinters when he became the first Briton to win the Tour de France green jersey and the first man to win the classic finish on the Champs-Elysees three times yesterday.
“Finally! I’m super happy, it did not come easy,” said the Manxman, who had narrowly missed the points classification winner’s jersey in the two previous years.
“The rules had changed this year, I had to work even harder. I was tired but my team mates keep working hard and we won all together. I was close the previous years now the goal is achieved. I’m so moved. It’s an incredible day today,” he added.
Since the Tour has been unfolding on the most famous Parisian avenue in 1975, no rider had won the traditional bunch sprint near the Place de la Concorde more than twice.
The last man to have won three final stages in succession was Belgian Eddy Merckx, the most successful cyclist ever, in 1972 when the finale was held on the Cipale track in Vincennes.
In the wheel of his HTC Highroad team mates, Cavendish beat Norway’s Edvald Boasson-Hagen and Germany’s Andre Greipel, taking his stage win tally over four Tours to 20.
Cavendish is now the most successful sprinter of all time in the Tour but is also ranked sixth in terms of stages victories, level with 1927 and 1928 champion Nicolas Frantz of Luxembourg.
The green jersey was the major objective of Cavendish at the start of the Tour and he finally obtained it on his fourth attempt, at the age of 26.
His closest adviser, Germany’s Erik Zabel, won the first of his record six green jerseys at the same age.
On crossing the line, Cavendish pulled the jersey in joy to show how dear the garment was to his heart.
The Briton again dominated bunch sprints by winning five of them since the start in Vendee three weeks ago.
He also hung on in the mountains, surviving gruelling stages in the Alps in which more than 80 riders including himself finished outside the time cut but were allowed to continue.