Mark Cavendish and his Columbia team mates yet again gave the rest of the peloton a lesson in how to win a sprint at the Tour of Switzerland on Thursday’s stage six.
The finish in Bad Zurach included some nasty corners and some short climbs but the the Columbia team, and especially George Hincapie, gave Cavendish a perfect lead out, and then the Manxman strutted his stuff with another powerful but beautifully controlled sprint.
Cav rightly put up two fingers indicating victory and his second win as he crossed the line. It was the 12th sprint win of the 2009. The record show this is his 41st career win and he has now equalled the number of wins by Chris Boardman, and joined him as the most successful British rider of all time.
If Cavendish has the same form and the same lead out in the Tour de France sprints, it is honestly difficult to see who can beat him. Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) and Ocar Freire (Rabobank) both took another beating in Bad Zurzach, while Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) again failed to contest the sprint in his first race back since injury. Cavendish had a far better jump, acceleration and execution than all of his rivals and must have struck an equally powerful physchological blow.
Hushovd again tried to go from the front, while Freire tried to come off Cavendish’s wheel but both strategies were again useless. Freire got second ahead Italy’s Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre) but Hushovd was in far too big a gear and went backwards when the sprint really began.
Cavendish is using the Tour of Switzerland as key build-up for his assault on the green points jersey at the Tour de France. The victories will boost his morale but more importantly he is proving to himself and his rivals that he can also handle the hills on a daily basis. Both the stages he has won in Switzerland have included several climbs, but he got over them well and went on to win.
Cancellara closing gap in overall standings
Overall Tadej Valjavec (Ag2r) kept the race lead but the quiet Slovenian knows he has to gain at least two minutes on Fabian Cancellara before Sunday’s 39km time trial in Berne if he is to win the race.
Cancellara took five bonus seconds in the two intermediate sprints during the stage and moved up to second overall, just nine seconds behind Valjavec. The giant Swiss tester – back to his best after a very quiet spell in the spring – knows he has to limit his losses on the uphill finish to Vallorbe on Friday and Crans Montana on Saturday if he wants a shot at winning his home stage race.
Friday’s 204km seventh stage ends with a category two climb to the finish. So far he has ridden like an overall contender and so final victory is within his grasp.
Stage six: Oberriet-Bad Zurzach, 177km
1. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia-Highroad in 4-18-26
2. Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
3. Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Lampre
4. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo
5. Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Silence-Lotto
6. Matti Breschel (Den) Saxo Bank
7. Koldo Fernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
8. Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Milram
9. Jose Rojas (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
10. Wouter Weylandt (Bel) Quick Step all same time.
Overall classification after stage six
1. Tadej Valjavec (Slo) Ag2r in 23-10-27
2. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Saxo Bank at 9sec
3. Olivier Zaugg (Swi) Liquigas at 14sec
4. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas at 42sec
5. Andreas Kloden (Ger) Astana at 45sec
6. Tony Martin (Ger) Columbia-Highroad at 54sec
7. Maxime Monfort (Bel) Columbia-Highroad at 55sec
8. Gustav Erik Larsson (Swe) Saxo Bank at 56sec
9. Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Katusha at 1-01
10. Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis at 1-02
117. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia-Highroad at 34-39
Win number two for Mark Cavendish at the 2009 Tour of Switzerland
of Switzerland stage six photo gallery by Graham
Stage four: Breschel wins stage; Valjavec new leader in Switzerland
Stage three: Cavendish wins Tour of Switzerland sprint
Cycling Weekly’s all-time list of British pro winners