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Cavendish said he asked the team for a chance
Jul 21st, 12. He may have been last home yesterday, but Mark Cavendish was clearly the first over the finish line on Stage 18 of the Tour de France.
After doing what he could to help out his leaders in the hillier stages, the World Champion was repaid today when the yellow jerseyed Bradley Wiggins gave him a sensational leadout.
After Wiggins pulled off, Team Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen put Cavendish in perfect position to power through the remnants of the day's breakaway (which the Norwegian has earlier been a part of).
Cavendish left them looking around to see what had happened when he flew past in the final 200m to take a decisive victory on the 222.5km stage from Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde.
"It would have been easy for the team to just ride in to Paris now after the mountains, but we spoke on the bus before the start and I stuck my hand up and said 'please give me a chance'," said Cavendish after this second win of the Tour, his 22nd Tour de France victory.
"They all committed to that and said we were going to make a sprint. I'm so happy, those guys who I've been riding with these last three weeks helped me out."
"We came here with the goal of winning the yellow jersey and we're first and second on GC. Spirits are high and to be part of a team that could go on to win the Tour de France is a massive honour."
Today's profile begged for a sprint but at the end of three weeks of racing there are plenty of ambitions yet to be fulfilled. There were 14 teams without a stage win and all of them worked hard to make amends today.
With no real GC contenders for Team Sky to concern themselves with, and riders from top sprint teams GreenEdge and Lotto Belisol in today's break, it was left to other teams to work to reel the breakaway in over the day's four categorised climbs.
It was a fast start to the 18th stage and it took 21km for an escape group to form, but after 49km the race was back together.
The bunch rode together until 65km when a group of nine men, which eventually swelled to 16, managed to gain some ground - Popovych (RNT), Arashiro (EUC), Millar (GRS), Fouchard (COF), Boasson Hagen (SKY), Hansen (LTB), Vanendert (LTB), Boeckmans (VCD), Paolini (KAT), Roy (FDJ), Costa (MOV), Kroon (STB), Nuyens (STB), Vinokourov (AST), Albasini (OGE) and Gretsch (ARG).
BMC, SaurSojasun, Euskaltel and Omega Pharma led the peloton's pursuit.
Nicholas Roche (ALM), Andreas Kloden (RNT) and Luis Leon Sanchez (RAB) attacked the peloton after the final climb and joined the leading trio with 5.5km to go.
There were several attack from the peloton by the likes of Daniel Oss (Liquigas) and Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge) but ultimately the bunch was led up to the escapees only inside the final kilometre.
Roche was the first to sprint but he could do nothing to hold off an impressive charge by Cavendish who received a perfect lead-out: first from Wiggins who peeled off after going under the 'Flamme Rouge' and then from Boasson Hagen.
Wiggins finished 19th in the stage and will wear the yellow jersey in Stage 19, the penultimate day of the 2021 Tour de France.
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