Mark Cavendish finally showed the patience needed to deliver his first Tour de France stage win in two years and 26th in all on yesterday to the satisfaction of his three-year-old daughter.
“Cav is back” declared the French television commentators after the Manxman burst to victory on the 190.5-kilometres route from Livarot after two near misses in this year’s race.
Many hoped that Cavendish’s 26th Tour win would have come in Harrogate, his mother’s hometown, on the opening stage of the 2014 Tour, but he crashed out.
His Etixx-QuickStep squad floundered in the finishing straight last Sunday in Zeeland and on Wednesday in Amiens the Manxman was third, conceding he simply was not fast enough.
The pressure was increasing on Cavendish, who is out of contract at the end of the year, as yesterday was one of the final opportunities for the pure sprinters, given the challenging nature of the route.
But the 30-year-old decided to bide his time before surging to his first win since the 2013 Tour and move two behind Bernard Hinault’s tally of stage wins. The Frenchman has 28, second only to Eddy Merckx’s record tally of 34.
Asked the difference between winning and not earlier in this week, Cavendish said: “I just waited a little longer. I was more patient, so I could use my speed at the end.”
Cavendish celebrated with pregnant wife Peta and three-year-old daughter Delilah.
“I’ve waited a week for this win personally,” Cavendish said.
“She (Delilah) was angry I didn’t get the flowers in the last days. Today she’s happy.”
Cavendish dedicated the win to Etixx-QuickStep team-mate Tony Martin, who had surgery on a fractured collarbone in Hamburg yesterday after crashing while leading the Tour on Thursday.
Normally Martin would be a key component of Cavendish’s leadout train, but instead the Briton freestyled through the frantic finale to beat Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) to the line. Greipel had won stages two and five ahead of Cavendish.
It was the Belgian squad’s third win of the Tour, after Martin’s triumph on stage four and Zdenek Stybar’s on stage six.
“It’s just me that’s let them down,” Cavendish added.
“I’ve just been a bit over-anxious the last two times.
“It used to be if I hit out, seven out of 10 times, I’d win.
“With the calibre of sprinters now, maybe one out of 10 times I’d win if I hit out early. It’s as simple as that.”
Cavendish is keen to remain at Etixx-QuickStep beyond his current deal.
He added: “I’d love to stay here, I really would.”
Chris Froome (Team Sky) stayed out of trouble to assume the race leader’s yellow jersey from Martin.
The German did not start, making Froome the defacto race leader, but he did not wear the yellow jersey.
He is 11 seconds clear of Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), who was third on the stage and could aim to take the maillot jaune this weekend with today’s challenging finish at the Mur de Bretagne and Sunday’s team time-trial.
Like Cavendish, Froome crashed out of the 2014 Tour.
It is something which has galvanised him for a challenging first week which has its end in sight.
“It really has been crazy this first week, but we’re definitely getting the feeling that it is starting to calm down a little bit now,” he added.
Froome leads nearest yellow jersey rival Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) by 13secs.
Seventh-placed Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) is 36secs behind, defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) is 1min 38secs adrift in 12th and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) is 16th, 1:56 behind.
The racing for yellow will begin in earnest after Monday’s rest day, when the peloton venture towards the Pyrenees.