• Mark Cavendish was thrilled to take the win on Stage 7 (AAP) (EPA)Source: EPA
The pressure has been mounting for Etixx-QuickStep sprinter Mark Cavendish, who can finally breathe a sigh of relief after his first Tour de France stage win in two years.
Cycling Central

11 Jul 2015 - 8:00 AM  UPDATED 11 Jul 2015 - 8:24 AM

Cavendish manoeuvred his way to a sprint win in the 190.5km seventh stage of the Tour overnight. The Manx Missile weaved around riders in front of him after being boxed in behind Alexander Kristoff (Katusha). He launched off the wheel of Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) to cross the line as the victor.

Australian team-mate Mark Renshaw escorted Cavendish through the middle of the chaos just in time for the finale, despite an aggressive fight on the front for position between the leadout trains of the peloton. Greipel was second and retains the sprinter’s green jersey, while Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) finished third.

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Cavendish’s win comes after some frustrating near misses earlier in this year's Tour.

"The last two sprints the team did well," he said. "I've just been too anxious and gone too early. (That’s) the thing about Le Tour. In another race you maybe wait. In Le Tour you don't want to wait.

“In another race you maybe got one or two guys coming around you. In Le Tour you have 10 guys coming around you, there are so many strong sprinters and teams here. If you hesitate, you lose the stage.”

Rather than hesitate, the 30-year-old has been criticised for going too early and running out of power when it counts. This time, with the lessons learned from previous stages and having observed that the sprint is starting later than usual as riders are fatigued after the first tough week of the Tour, Cavendish read the race well and timed his winning sprint to perfection.

The Stage 7 victory brings Cavendish’s career total of Tour de France stage victories to 26. The last time he stood on the top step at the Tour was in 2013, where he finsihed first in Stages 5 and 13. His first taste of Tour de France victory was in 2008, when he won individual stages an impressive four times.

“To get one every year except 2014, when I crashed out of Le Tour in the first stage, is a big, big thing,” said Cavendish. “Obviously it's been the longest run for me without a win at the Tour de France, I think two years. So to get back to winning ways is certainly nice."

The Etixx-QuickStep rider dedicated the win to team-mate Tony Martin, who watched the race from the hospital after his surgery to repair his broken collarbone.

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"There's no hiding the fact that losing Tony was going to be a big loss to the team," Cavendish said. "But we said yesterday that we'd win for him today. To go out and win to get the yellow jersey like he did, it's really sad. He's an incredible part of this team, on and off the bike.”

The first week of the Tour has been marred by crashes, with a lot of big name riders being forced to withdraw owing to injury, Martin included.

“It's almost like we started the race with 12 guys and now we've got eight left. That's what losing Tony is like,” said Cavendish. “I'm so glad his surgery has gone well. We would have loved for him to be here today, and to celebrate with us tonight.”

Despite losing Martin, Etixx-QuickStep has shown it is a team to watch out for at the Tour, having taken three stage wins of the available seven so far. Martin won over the cobbles of Stage 4, and three-time cyclocross world champion Zdeněk Štybar took home the spoils on Stage 6, the same day Martin crashed on his collarbone.

“Now we look to the next days,” said Cavendish. “We've got a really good momentum going with nine strong guys who proved this week that we can win in all kinds of situations. We'll keep going for good results."

Tonight, the Tour moves on to Stage 8, 181.5km from Rennes to Mûr-de-Bretagne. This stage may be the first real opportunity for GC contenders to establish some time gaps as it finishes with a two kilometre climb with an average gradient of 6.9 per cent. 

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