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

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

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.

"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.

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.

      Sports spotlight

    • AG2R pair Peraud and Romain Bardet (right) thrilled the French fans with their performances on the 2014 Tour de France.

      Whisper it quietly, but after years of foreign domination the prospect of a French winner of the Tour de France is more than just a mere pipe dream.
    • Steve Way leads the in the Commonwealth Games marathon with the favorites massing behind him.

      Seven years ago Steve Way was a 20 per day smoker and weighed a hefty 104 kg, but he led the marathon at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
    • After just one day of competition, a new sport has emerged at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow: snapping selfies with the Queen.
    • Joanna Rowsell is flanked by Australian duo Annette Edmonson and Amy Cure (right) after the medal presentation for the women's individual pursuit.

      Inspirational cyclist Joanna Rowsell added another gold to her growing collection in the individual pursuit at the Commonwealth Games.
    • GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JULY 23: John Barrowman performs during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

      At the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, an actor upstaged the Queen by kissing a male dancer.
    • Daniel Carter of the All Blacks in action during the Third Test Match between the New Zealand All Blacks and France at Yarrow Stadium on June 22, 2013 in New Plymouth, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

      The All Blacks and their fans are focused on one thing, says Dan Carter: becoming the first rugby nation to win back-to-back World Cups.
    • FOR USE ON CNN PHOTO BLOG ONLY

      Photographer Danny Lyon spent three days with Muhammad Ali in 1972 and shares his best photos and memories of the champ.
    • SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 23:  Sidney Crosby #87 of Canada celebrates after scoring his team's second goal in the second period during the Men's Ice Hockey Gold Medal match against Sweden on Day 16 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

      With a growing audience boosted by the drama of ice hockey on show in Sochi at the Winter Olympics, can the sport capitalize on its popularity?
    • The first cover star of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue, Babette March

      Her paintings may sell for thousands of dollars, but she is best known for a modeling shot 50 years ago that helped launch a business empire.