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Cavendish lays down early marker with 21st Tour de France stage win

By Paul Gittings, CNN
July 3, 2012 -- Updated 1058 GMT (1858 HKT)
Mark Cavendish crosses the line in triumph ahead of Andrei Greipel and Matt Goss on the second stage of the Tour de France.
Mark Cavendish crosses the line in triumph ahead of Andrei Greipel and Matt Goss on the second stage of the Tour de France.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mark Cavendish wins second stage of 2012 Tour de France
  • 21st stage win on the Tour for the British superstar
  • He pips Andre Greipel of Germany on the line in sprint finish in Tournai
  • Fabian Cancellara holds on to the race leader's yellow jersey

(CNN) -- Britain's Mark Cavendish claimed the 21st Tour de France stage win of his remarkable cycling career with an opportunist victory Monday in Tournai.

The 207-kilometer second stage from Vise was always expected to end in a bunch sprint, and Cavendish hit the front in the final meter to pip German Andre Greipel on the line.

Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara stayed in the race leader's yellow jersey after finishing safely in the pack.

With his Team Sky teammates concentrating on delivering Bradley Wiggins to overall victory in the three-week race, Cavendish was, in his words, "completely alone" in the final kilometer rather than having his usual lead-out train.

It confirmed where Sky's priorities ultimately lie, but the 27-year-old Cavendish is content to rely on his own abilities.

Bradley Wiggins, left, celebrates on the finish line with teammate Michael Rogers of Australia after becoming the first Briton to win the Tour de France on Sunday, July 22, in Paris. Bradley Wiggins, left, celebrates on the finish line with teammate Michael Rogers of Australia after becoming the first Briton to win the Tour de France on Sunday, July 22, in Paris.
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"We are here for the yellow jersey so I knew it was always going to be difficult," he told the UK race broadcaster ITV.

"I came here without any pressure, while normally if I had a team I should win it. I'm kind of a bonus rider."

How the Tour de France went global

Wiggins remained in second place overall while defending champion Cadel Evans and the other main favorites also came through unscathed.

After the inevitable breakaway was pulled in, all the teams attempted to position their sprint specialists for the final charge for the line.

Cavendish jumped from wheel to wheel before launching his bid, coming around arch-rival and former HTC-Highroad teammate Greipel to grab the glory.

We are here for the yellow jersey so I knew it was always going to be difficult
Mark Cavendish

Australian Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) finished third and all three are set to battle for honors on the flat stages which favor out-and-out sprinters.

Slovakian Peter Sagan, so impressive in winning Sunday's first stage in Seraing, showed he is no slouch in a bunch sprint by taking sixth place to hold on to the green jersey, won last year by Cavendish.

"I'm not really chasing it again," Cavendish told Eurosport, having indicated he is concentrating on winning Olympic gold in the road race in London, which takes place just six days after the finish of the Tour.

Tuesday's third stage takes in 197 km from Orchies to Boulogne-sur-Mer and features a number of awkward climbs which lead to changes in the overall classification.

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