PARIS (AFP) — Sprint king Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) became only the second Briton to step onto the Tour de France podium after securing the green jersey with his fifth stage win of this year’s race on the final day Sunday.
Robert Millar, from Scotland, made history when he won the race’s polka-dot jersey in 1984, when he also finished a British-best fourth overall.
While Londoner Bradley Wiggins matched Millar’s fourth-place finish in 2009, Cavendish becomes the first Briton to win the green jersey.
Although coveted by the sprinters, it rewards the rider who dominates the competition for points, which can be pocketed at intermediate sprints and the finish line of most stages.
Cavendish, who narrowly missed winning the prize the past two years, made the green jersey his main objective this year and secured it comfortably after dominating the field for the third successive year on the Champs-Élysées.
“Finally! I’m super, super happy but it didn’t come easy,” said Cavendish, who now has 20 stage wins from five participations.
“It’s an incredibly emotional day for me. It’s the third time I’ve won on the Champs-Élysées and it’s a massive honor. I’m wearing the jersey on behalf of eight other incredible guys. Nine of us rode together on this Tour de France. We’ve had to work incredibly hard for this jersey, winning six stages on the way.”
After a dramatic few days in the mountains, when he and dozens of other non-climbers twice missed the time cut — which ordinarily means being thrown off the race, but when the numbers became ridiculous only meant accruing points penalties — Cavendish took a 15-point lead over Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) into the final stage over 95km from Creteil to Paris.
Rojas’s team moved to the front of the peloton on the approach to the only intermediate sprint at the 59km mark after a six-man breakaway had taken the first available points, awarded to the first 15 riders over the line.
However, Cavendish’s team set him up expertly, and he sprinted ahead of the chasing bunch to cross in seventh place, thus taking nine points. Rojas could only manage ninth place, picking up seven points and seeing his deficit stretched to 17.
With the breakaways finally neutralized HTC-Highroad took control inside the final kilometer. One by one they wound up the pace and, as the field was whittled down, Cavendish emerged from the wheel of lead-out man Mark Renshaw to complete the final 200 meters on his own.
Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) was second, with Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) third. Rojas could manage only 21st on the day.