Team Sky's Mark Cavendish won his first stage race overall title in the Netherlands yesterday when he held on to the leader jersey in the Ster ZLM Toer. Cavendish beat second-placed Lars Boom (Rabobank) by eight seconds, but, unusually, did not win any stages on the way to the overall.
“I’ve been second a couple of times in the past but this is my first GC win and I'm really, really happy with it,” Cavendish told TeamSky.com.
“The team rode so well yesterday, setting such a high tempo on the front that guys were going out the back all day. We were down to just 25 at the finish - it was incredible and I’m really proud of what we did.
“In today's final stage there was a dangerous guy up the road in the break at just one minute back on the GC but we managed to bring it all back together.
It all augurs well for Cavendish's two big challenges of the season, the Tour de France and the Olympics. “I’m training really well. I wanted to be in my best form and definitely am so I’m looking forward to France now and hopefully Team Sky getting the green and yellow jerseys.
“It's pretty much about relaxing now and really looking after myself these next two weeks. You’ve got to start the Tour de France as fresh as possible - especially so this year with the Olympics so soon after.”
Team Sky sports director Steven de Jongh said: “It’s a first stage-race win for Mark and he’s pretty happy with it; I think there should be more in the future too.
“The guys had another good day – they controlled it throughout for the jersey. Rabobank helped out too as did Argos-Shimano later on.
“The whole team has done really well this weekend and there have been plenty of other plus points. For example, Alex Dowsett is getting better every day as he works his way back to top form after his injury so it’s been a productive week.”
De Jongh wasn't the only one impressed with Cavendish's ride. RadioShack rider and living legend Jens Voigt observed him up close on the third stage where he stamped his authority on the day's hardest climb.
The following morning, Voigt took to Twitter to tell the story: “We are on the famous "la redoute" climb and 2 of my teammates just attacked and went off the front. Of course some counterattacks behind... I try to keep them in check and it's pretty sticky already, and there is 5 riders just ahead of me, and then I look to side and guess what???
“I see the world champion Marc Cavendish in his yellow jersey shifting 2 gears bigger and just jumping to the counterattack, totally easy!!!
“I could see how Cav thought "I know I am supposed to be a sprinter, but i dont care!!" And he crossed the hilltop in first place. I mean the biggest names in cycling used to fight and suffer with this hard and famous climb and then Cav comes along.
“Cav totally made this climb his bi..atch, I was sooo totally impressed to eyewitness that!! He is a champ, and watch out for him at Olympics!”
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.