Cavendish takes career first GC win in Ster ZLM Toer

Cavendish takes career first GC win in Ster ZLM Toer

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Team Sky's Mark Cavendish claimed the first general classification victory of his career when winning the Ster ZLM Toer on Sunday by eight seconds from Lars Boom (Rabobank).

Top three places on the opening two stages in Holland had put him joint top of the standings but the race-defining performance came in Saturday's queen stage as the world champion stayed in the mix throughout on the hilly route in the Ardennes.

While some of his fellow sprinters lost upwards of 13 minutes, Cavendish was in contention right to the finish as he chased home stage winner Boom on the climb to the line.

And he then closed out the overall win on the pan-flat final stage from Schijndel to Boxtel, with Team Sky and Rabobank dictating matters on the 163.5 kilometres route to make sure it ended with a bunch sprint.

That was won by Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), with Mark Renshaw (Rabobank) second and Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol) in third.

With Cavendish (16th on the stage) and Boom (10th) both finishing in the 52-man front group they stayed in first and second on the GC as Roelandts moved up to third, a further six seconds back and just ahead of Team Sky's Juan Antonio Flecha in fourth.

Kittel pipped Cavendish to the green points jersey while Nelson Oliveira (RadioShack-Nissan) topped the mountains classification.

Looking ahead

Speaking soon after his victory, Cavendish told us: "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."

Reflecting on what proved a key third stage, he added: "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 Katusha guy [Aliaksandr Kuchynski] up the road in the break at just one minute back on the GC but we managed to bring it all back together.

"The calibre of some of the sprinters here is incredibly high and while I couldn’t quite get a win today it was about making sure I kept the yellow jersey. I’m really happy."

Turning his attention to the Tour de France, which starts in Liege on June 30, and the Olympics Road Race he said: "I’m training really well. I wanted to be in my best form and am definitely in it so I’m looking forward to France now and hopefully Team Sky getting the green and yellow jerseys."

Asked what the fortnight leading into the Tour will feature training-wise, Cavendish explained: "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."

In control

The final stage had seen a four-man break, with Kuchynski the best-placed on GC, go clear early before they were joined by Greg Henderson (Lotto-Belisol) and Dries Hollanders (Metec Continental Cycling Team) - and it was that duo who stayed away longest.

However with 10 bonus seconds on offer to the stage winner the escape group's advantage was kept under a tight rein throughout by Cavendish and Boom's teams.

The gap came down steadily in the closing stages and it was all back together inside the final 10km on the last finishing circuit. By that point Argos-Shimano had joined in the work up front and they were rewarded with the win, with Kittel storming to a clear-cut triumph as Cavendish sealed the overall title.

Afterwards Sports Director Steven de Jongh said: "The guys had another good day – they controlled it throughout for the jersey. Rabobank helped out too as did Argos-Shimano later on.

"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 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."

Results

Stage 4 : Schijndel - Boxtel 182km

1 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Argos - Shimano 3:35:54
2 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Rabobank Cycling Team
3 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team
Other
14 Andrew Fenn (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
16 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky Procycling
62 Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky Procycling
124 Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Sky Procycling
132 Alex Dowsett (GBr) Sky Procycling

Final General Classification

1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky Procycling 16:11:55
2 Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:00:08
3 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team 0:00:14
Other
20 Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:58
93 Andrew Fenn (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quickstep 0:15:17
111 Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:18:03
131 Alex Dowsett (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:24:53

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