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Cavendish seals the deal in Paris, Contador wins the overall

By Heidi Swift - July 27th, 2009

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 
 



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