Mark Cavendish secured his first victory of the 2013 Tour de France, resplendent in the jersey of British Champion.
Cavendish, who revealed yesterday he was suffering from bronchitis before the start of the race, showed no sign of weakness, utilising his now well-drilled team of Omega Pharma Quickstep in the final ten kilometres.
First, Sylvain Chavanel chased on the final descent, after it was confirmed Cavendish crested the final climb in the peloton.
Once to the flat six worked for Cavendish, against three for Cannondale, four of Argos-Shimano and Lotto.
Despite a chaotic final the team of Cavendish remained cool, were happily swamped by other sprint trains and kept numerical advantage.
When Cavendish delivered his first sprint of the 2013 Tour it was not only a stage win, but a devestating indication of his form, aspirations for further stage honours and the begin of a long fightback to take the green jersey in Paris.
That was much the opinion of Cavendish when interviewed at the finish who recalled it was not usual for him to win stages earlier than this at the Tour.
"It's been a bit frustrating but normally I don't normally win until the fifth stage anyway. The final climb was always going to be difficult but I knew what climb it was as soon as I hit it from racing the Marseille GP. I'm super happy, now the pressure is kind of off but hopefully it has started the ball rolling. In the sprint we got disrupted, but I kept saying to them stay one side of the road, but it's always going to happen in the sprint.
"I’m not even at 95% still pretty ill, but with the guys committing like that they show motivation by riding themselves int0 the ground and that gives you motivation. I would have massively messed up if I had not won in the final there. Steegmans went so fast I didn’t accelerate off his wheel and if I didn’t win from that position I wouldn’t have been doing my job."
IN THE PELOTON
Behind the sprint trains, a large crash on the final bend failed to damage any of the British competitors on a day when Chris Froome and his mountain lieutenants remained safe in the heart of the peloton.
It was a day when recovery from the team time trial was paramount before the first mountain stages this weekend.
With Geraint Thomas clear of the dangerous time limits and - alongside Ian Stannard - showing signs of recovery from carnage on day one, Team Sky look to be regrouping just as the first of the decisive stages approach.
The breakaway of the day formed at kilometre two still had six minutes with 45 kilometres remaining. Four of the original six - Yukiya Arashiro (Europcar), Kevin Reza (Europcar), Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) dropped Anthony Delaplace (Sojasun) and Romain Sicard (Euskaltel) on the penultimate climb.
Such category four undulations would not deter the appetite of the peloton and as distance passed and minutes were wiped from the lead the only remaining question was weather all the pure sprinters would make it over the final, uncategorised climb.
Initially only Matt Goss and David Millar - who 24 hours previous had dreams of wearing the yellow jersey - were dropped, but a later crash in the front third of the peloton on a wide, uphill road with no obstructions ensured a depleted peloton continued to the line.
The crash served as no more than an inconvenience though and as the peloton was galvanised, the breakaway destroyed itself with a series of attacks, before the inevitable catch followed.
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 5:31:51
2 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling
3 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale
4 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol
5 Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre-Merida
6 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha
7 Juan Jose Lobato Del Valle (Spa) Euskaltel Euskadi
8 Ramunas Navardauskas (Lit) Garmin-Sharp
9 Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Sojasun
10 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team
1 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
2 Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEdge
3 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-GreenEdge
4 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:00:01
5 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
6 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling 0:00:03
7 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling
8 Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling
9 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:09
10 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff