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Best sprints of 2012: Cav seeing new generation nipping at heels

2. Mark Cavendish: Still no one better

Mark Cavendish’s rainbow jersey season didn’t quite unfold as he had hoped. His high-profile move to Sky saw more intrigue than a Ken Follett novel, but when Sky grabbed the chance to make history and win the Tour de France with Bradley Wiggins, Cavendish was the odd man out.

In the most important race of the year, the Manxman settled for leftovers, with only Edvald Boasson Hagen and the ever-faithful Bernhard Eisel to help him in the bunch sprints at the Tour.

In stage 18 of this year’s Tour, Cavendish won a sublime sprint led out by none other than yellow-jersey man Wiggins. Cavendish’s old Madison partner drove the peloton toward the red kite and then Boasson Hagen took pulls to close in on breakaways Nicholas Roche (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) in the final 200 meters.

The day looked settled for a win from the break when Cavendish uncorked his trademark acceleration and blew past everyone to win his second stage. Three days later he would win on the Champs-Élysées for the fourth time — good for his 23rd career Tour stage victory.

Now at Omega Pharma-Quick Step for 2013, Cavendish will once again have a full team taking pulls for him. With his train back on track, the Cannonball is sure to fire again.