LISIEUX, France (AFP) — Despite the temptation, Britain’s Mark Cavendish is likely put nostalgia to one side when he saddles up for a pop at his second stage win of the Tour de France Friday.
Stage 7 is a 218 km ride from Le Mans to Chateauroux, where Cavendish opened his account on the world’s premier cycling event in 2008. (Stage 7 description)
That victory paved the way for three more on the race that year, and a career which has seen Cavendish become the most successful, and controversial, sprinter in the world.
Having taken his first win of the climb-heavy 98th edition on Wednesday, the Isle of Man cyclist now has 16 wins to his name. And more are likely to come, according to Italian sprint legend Mario Cipollini.
“I’ve watched Cavendish on the race, and I believe he’s the strongest sprinter in the world,” Cipollini told AFP.
Cipollini, considered one of thhe sprint greats of the past 20 years, won only 12 stages from 1993 to 1999 and never finished the race once. He retired in 2004, two years after being crowned world champion.
In a first week that has a mix of stages, the victory opportunities for sprinters have been comparatively rare.
American Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Cervelo grabbed the first chance with both hands on stage 3, finishing four places ahead of Cavendish to claim his maiden Tour de France stage win.
Cavendish made amends on Wednesday when he jumped from wheel to wheel in the final kilometer of a tricky finale before surging clear in the last 150 meters to beat Belgian champion Philippe Gilbert at the line.
And on Friday the Manxman’s chances of making it number 17 are boosted by a a finale that should allow him to put his formidable sprint train at HTC-Highroad to full use.
Despite a tricky run-in in the final 5km, with three sharp bends and a roundabout the home straight is pancake flat and an inviting 1.6km long.
Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi, Belgian Tom Boonen and Farrar should all be in the mix.