Tour de France

Sprint competition now tougher - Cavendish

2016-07-07 22:44
mark cavendish
Mark Cavendish (Getty Images)

Tour de France second stage winner Peter Sagan released a tribute to Rocky Balboa, showing us how he became the champion he is.

Montauban - Mark Cavendish insisted the competition is getting tougher in sprint finishes despite winning his 29th Tour de France stage on Thursday.

The 31-year-old claimed a third win in six stages this year to move clear in second place on the all-time stage win list.

Only Belgian great Eddy Merckx has more with 34 -- and he won five Tours.

When Cavendish first broke onto the scene in 2008 he was by far the best sprinter in the world, winning 23 Tour stages over the next five years.

He also became world champion in 2011 in a sprint finish and won the prestigious Milan-San Remo "Monument" race in 2009.

But now he says there are better sprinters to compete with, which is why he won "only" three stages in three years from 2013 to 2015.

"When I started 10 years ago there weren't guys putting out 2,000 watts. There were no aerodynamic bikes, no skin suits or aerodynamic helmets," said the Briton, who was national champion in 2013.

"There are more big, heavy, powerful guys nowadays and there's not really a simple biology or physiology."

"Cycling is a unique sport -- all different body shapes, sizes and physiologies can race together," he added.

"You just have to make what works for you work."

Cavendish sprinted smartly to beat German powerhouse Marcel Kittel on Thursday, latching onto the Etixx rider's wheel and then darting out from behind to take victory.

Kittel said it was Cavendish's better tactics that won the day.

"He knew where he needed to be and when. I tried everything to hold him off but I couldn't, it was really close in the end," said the 28-year-old, who won Tuesday's fourth stage.

Kittel is a power sprinter, who when launched by a good lead-out train can be hard to beat.

He won four stages in each of the 2013 and 2014 Tour editions, dominating Cavendish in the process.

But the sprints in this race have not suited him, with twisty finishes either on a slight incline or decline.

"I don't know why the organisers do it like this with downhills in the city," he said.

"We have all those small roads and corners. It goes wide, narrow, wide again and every team is struggling at this stage to be at the front."

Kittel was second to Cavendish on the opening stage and finished seventh on the third stage, the other sprint finish which Cavendish won.

Australian Mark Renshaw said Cavendish's victory was down to his individual brilliance because their Team Dimension Data hadn't managed to organise their sprint train.

"For me (Cavendish) did a great sprint because he was behind Kittel," said veteran Renshaw, who has never won a Tour stage but was twice world champion on the track in the team pursuit with his country.

"(The sprint train) was a disaster today. We were on the left side and not able to get past Giant and Sky.

"It was only at the last moment on the last corner that we managed to get Cav up to Kittel."

Cavendish knew where he wanted to be to get a run on the burly German.

"I wanted Kittel's wheel. I was fighting and fighting for Kittel's wheel," he said.

"I stayed on his wheel and in the final I knew I wanted to come off that."

Read more on:    tdf 2016  |  mark cavendish  |  cycling

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