Mark Cavendish scored his first pro win at the Scheldeprijs on Wednesday. Delivered to the finish by an excellent T-Mobile sprint train, the Manx speedster was able to finish off the job by overhauling Robbie McEwen and Erik Zabel in the frantic bunch sprint.
c. Official site
Mark Cavendish comes of age for T-Mobile! The British youngster edged out a field of world-class sprinters to win the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen single-day race in Belgium on Wednesday.
Delivered to the finish by a well-oiled T-Mobile sprint train, the talented Manx speedster was able to finish off the job by overhauling no less than Erik Zabel (Milram) and Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto) in the frantic bunch sprint.
Serial Tour de France stage winner McEwen launched his sprint with about 350 metres to go, but Cavendish latched onto Gert Steegman's wheel to power around first Zabel on his right, and then take the long way around to pip a stunned McEwen on the line.
"I am happy with the team roles this year, and this is the first time I had a free role," quipped the chuffed Cavendish after the win. "I grew up respecting Robbie, and I just hope I can be the next Robbie McEwen."
"I knew that Mark has what it takes to win big races, but I didn't think that he could take the big scalps so soon!" said T-Mobile sporting director Allan Peiper
Peiper: "A massive team performance"
The win was also excellent pay-back for Cavendish's team mates who had chased hard in the pack and then controlled the bunch in the finale to set up the sprint for the youngster.
Peiper: "This result was the fruit of a massive team performance. This is exactly the kind of race profile that suits Mark's talents, so the team did their bit to set him up and lead him out.
"Mark then showed he has the class to do the rest. I still can't believe the big names he has beaten here today," added Peiper.
It was a first ever pro win for Cavendish, though he notched a stage second place at Etoile de Besseges in early February. Limited by illness since then, Cavendish has struggled to make an impact, but today he showed the explosive top-end speed that saw him notch up five podium places and the points competition at last year’s Tour of Britain while riding as a T-Mobile stagiare.
The Race Action
Under cloudy skies and mild temperatures the riders set off from Antwerp on a 149 kilometre clock-wise loop over pan-cake terrain to Schoten, where they would complete three laps of a 16 kilometre circuit. Absent was Tom Boonen – intestinal problems had forced the defending champion and home favourite to miss out.
Along the way they covered several cobbled sections on the 197 km distance but nothing as serious and race-deciding as the ones that dotted Paris-Roubaix.
After some initial attacks a three-man move formed containing Kevin Van Impe (Quickstep-Innergetic), Niko Eeckhout (Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen) and Koos Moerenhout (Rabobank).
With the sprinters wanting their day however, the peloton never allowed the trio to get too far up the road and the lead was never greater than 1'30.
After Moerenhout was dropped with 25km to go, the peloton led by Milram, Predictor-Lotto and T-Mobile smelled blood and the remaining breakaways were shut down on the final lap, with 11km to ride.
Predictor and T-Mobile really knocked out the tempo in the final kilometres to fend off counter-attacks. Nico Mattan (DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed), Gorik Gardeyn (Unibet.com) and Steven De Jongh (Quickstep-Innergetic) did have a late dig, getting about a 10" second gap, but they were soon charged down by the sprint trains and the race was set for the big bunch showdown, with Cavendish surprising the big name sprinters to score a superb race win and follow in the tyre tracks of Tom Boonen. )
Scheldeprijs Top-Ten Results
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) T-Mobile Team
2 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Predictor-Lotto
3 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic
4 Wouter Weylandt (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic
5 Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank
6 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram
7 Baden Cooke (Aus) Unibet.com
8 Daniel Musiol (Ger) Team Wiesenhof-Felt
9 Steven Caethoven (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport
10 Robert Hunter (RSA) Barloworld