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He said he was going to win in Paris. He’s said it since day one. It’s bold to make such big claims with that brand of unflinching confidence, but Cavendish has a way of delivering the goods. And today on the storied Champs-Élysées was no different.
The Englishman stormed away from everyone to claim his 6th (and most dominating) win of this year’s Tour. The moment marked the 10th Tour de France stage win of his career and the realization of a major goal for the entire Columbia-HTC team.
How it unfolded
Champagne and smiles were the order of the day for the first half of today’s stage which saw the riders enjoying their final hours in the 2009 Tour de France. Some were celebrating GC victories, some were celebrating success in the classification competitions, but most were simply celebrating survival.
But when the group turned onto the storied Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris, it was back to business. On tap? A frenzied sprint and a bid for one of the highest honors in the sport – the top podium spot for the final stage win of the Tour. Glory in Paris is every sprinter’s dream.
Traditionally, the stage to Paris ends with an 8 lap race around a 7 kilometer circuit – the perfect venue to set up a dramatic finish.
The requisite attacks went out almost immediately as a few escape artists attempted to thwart the sprinter’s plans, but the Columbia-HTC train was having none of it. As the field sped along the circuit through the city, all 9 Columbia riders moved to the front to drive the pace and string out the 156-man peloton.
Though the breakaway gained as much as 32 seconds on the field, Columbia was finally able to bring it back under control coming into the final lap. With 7 kilometers left to ride on a 3500 kilometer race, the boys in yellow and black began to set Cavendish up for the stage win.
Garmin-Slipstream had other ideas and launched a surprise attack up the right side of the road that looked to be momentarily threatening but eventually fell apart. With 3.5k left to the finish they made another attempt, moving to the front and disrupting the charge of the Columbia leadout train, but Hincapie, Renshaw and Cavendish remained calm and marked the Garmin boys as the finish line grew closer.
With 1k to go, big George Hincapie moved to the front to do what he does best: lay down the power. He delivered a monster push that put every challenger into difficulty and lined Mark Renshaw and Cavendish up on the front, in perfect position coming into sight of the final turn.
And that final turn proved to be decisive.
Renshaw led into the sharp 90-degree right-hand corner at full-throttle, taking a brilliant line with not a single touch of the brakes. Cavendish was tucked in, directly on his wheel.
Behind them, their chasers couldn’t match the execution and were forced to tap the brakes, allowing the two Columbia-HTC boys to rocket ahead on the finishing straight. As Cavendish came off of Renshaw’s wheel, there was not a single rival in sight. Cav’ took the win by at least ten bike length – with a large enough gap for Renshaw to cruise across the line in second place.
As Cav’ threw his arms skyward under the finishing banner, Renshaw could be seen just behind delivering a secondary victory salute to celebrate the team’s incredible ride. The double podium for the Columbia boys was extra icing on the cake in a Tour in which they’ve far exceeded all expectations.
Contador takes second Tour de France win, Armstrong third
Astana’s Alberto Contador finished safely with the bunch today to seal the deal on his overall victory. This marks the Spaniard’s second Tour de France career win. In his return from retirement, Lance Armstrong finished on the podium in third place a little over a minute down on second place finisher Andy Schleck.
The Columbia-HTC Tally
It’s safe to say that Columbia’s 2009 Tour was a smashing success. While Astana dominated in the race for the GC, Cavendish and crew were the story of 2009 for stage wins and sprinting domination. In addition, Tony Martin displayed huge potential for a strong future as a GC contender.
The team will return home with an impressive list of accolades including:
6 stage victories (That’s almost 1 in every 3 stages!)
12 days in the white Best Young Rider’s jersey (Tony Martin)
8 days in the green Points Competition jersey (Mark Cavendish)
2nd place finish on Mont Ventoux (Tony Martin)
Stage 21 Results: Top Five Individuals
1. CAVENDISH Mark TEAM COLUMBIA - HTC 4h 02' 18"
2. RENSHAW Mark TEAM COLUMBIA - HTC + 00' 00"
3. FARRAR Tyler GARMIN - SLIPSTREAM + 00' 00"
4. CIOLEK Gerald TEAM MILRAM + 00' 00"
5. HUTAROVICH Yauheni FRANCAISE DES JEUX + 00' 00"
Final Top Ten Individual Standings (GC)
1. CONTADOR Alberto ASTANA 85h 48' 35"
2. SCHLECK Andy TEAM SAXO BANK + 04' 11"
3. ARMSTRONG Lance ASTANA + 05' 24"
4. WIGGINS Bradley GARMIN - SLIPSTREAM + 06' 01"
5. SCHLECK Frank TEAM SAXO BANK + 06' 04"
6. KLÖDEN Andréas ASTANA + 06' 42"
7. NIBALI Vincenzo LIQUIGAS + 07' 35"
8. VANDE VELDE Christian GARMIN - SLIPSTREAM + 12' 04"
9. KREUZIGER Roman LIQUIGAS + 14' 16"
10. LE MEVEL Christophe FRANCAISE DES JEUX + 14' 25"
Columbia-HTC Final Individual Standings
19. HINCAPIE George 131. CAVENDISH Mark
28. MONFORT Maxime 134. GRABSCH Bert
36. MARTIN Tony 149. RENSHAW Mark
57. KIRCHEN Kim 150. EISEL Bernhard
103. ROGERS Michael