Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) is hitting his stride just in time with the season’s first major goals just around the corner.
Troubled by a tooth infection that derailed his early season campaign, the Manx Missile pounced to his second win of the year in Thursday’s second stage at the Tour de Romandie in Switzerland.
“It’s just really to say I’m back,” Cavendish told Swiss television TSR. “A lot of things have been said. I’ve had a bad start to the season.”
Cavendish seemed unbeatable in the sprints last season, but was slowed down by a tooth infection that delayed his training. With an eye toward being at his best at the back end of the 2010 season, Cavendish wasn’t at his best in early season races, especially at Milan-San Remo, where he finished a distant 89th a year after his sensational victory.
That set tongues a wagging and he didn’t claim his first victory until the Volta a Catalunya in March, which he later abandoned with a cold.
Racing in fine spring weather, Cavendish seemed back at his best. Liquigas and HTC-Columbia collaborated to reel in a four-man breakaway that included BMC’s Chad Beyer to set up the mass gallop.
Showing signs that his form is coming around just in time for next month’s Tour of California, Cavendish made easy work of Danilo Hondo (Lampre) to win.
“The team did a great job today,” Cavendish said. “There was a headwind and I was able to win.”
“I’ve ridden this finishing circuit before,” Cavendish said later, ” and I knew I was in good enough shape for the win. My teammates were amazingly strong. They did some massive turns on the front, and even though the headwind made it hard, they went all out. With all the problems I’ve had earlier this season they could have lost some faith in me, but they gave it everything.”
Robert Hunter (Garmin-Transitions) crossed the line third while Peter Sagan (Liquigas), winner of Thursday’s stage, looped across fifth to retain the leader’s jersey.
Sagan leads Marco Pinotti (HTC-Columbia) and Jeremy Roy (Française des Jeux) by nine seconds.
Beyer in break
Chad Beyer (BMC) was one of the day’s main protagonists, working into the day’s main, four-man breakaway to successfully defend his points jersey, a distinction he earned while on the attack on Wednesday.
Beyer was keen to grab more points and helped force the day’s main move. Following out were Alan Pérez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) and Denis Van Winden (Rabobank) and the quartet quickly built up a four-minute lead halfway through the circuit course.
Beyer won points at the first sprint before losing contact up the second climb up the La Tourette summit, but it didn’t matter as his work was finished and the group was reeled in with 30km to go to set up the mass sprint.
BMC teammate Steve Morabita later had a go in a late-stage attack with 2km to go and the team put two in the top-12, with Danilo Wyss seventh and Alex Moos 11th.
“It was a very good day for us,” said BMC sport director René Savary. “Chad rode well to keep his green jersey while Steve put in a good attack later. Though it wasn’t successful, it shows he’s on good form.”
The 64th Romandie tour continues Friday with the decisive, 23.4km individual time trial starting and finishing in Moudon. The course opens with a steady climb in the opening seven kilometers and continues to roll along before descending in the final five kilometers.
Cavendish’s victory was good for HTC-Columbia’s second win in three days at Romandie, and the team is poised to move back into the overall lead coming into Friday’s TT.
Pinotti is second at nine seconds back while Ruta del Sol winner Michael Rogers is fifth at 12 seconds back. Defending champion Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) will be looking to limit his losses to the specialists ahead of Saturday’s summit finish while former Spanish national time trial champ Rubén Plaza (Caisse d’Epargne) is also 15 seconds in arrears.
1. Mark Cavendish (GBR) HTC-Columbia in 4:28:59
2. Danilo Hondo (GER) Lampre-Farnese Vini, s.t.
3. Robert Hunter (RSA) Garmin-Transitions, s.t.
4. Lucas Sebastian Haedo (ARG) Team Saxo Bank, s.t.
5. Peter Sagan (SVK) Liquigas Doimo, s.t.
6. Koldo Fernandez (ESP) Euskaltel-Euskadi, s.t.
7. Danilo Wyss (SUI) BMC Racing Team, s.t.
8. Ben Swift (GBR) Team Sky, s.t.
9. Nicolas Roche (IRL) Ag2r La Mondiale, s.t.
10. David Loosli (SUI) Lampre-Farnese Vini, s.t.