Cavendish wins ZLM Toer
Kittel bags final stage in Boxtel for Argos-Shimano
Last Updated: June 17, 2012 5:05pm
Mark Cavendish: Yellow jersey winner at ZLM Toer as he builds up to Tour de France
Team Sky's Mark Cavendish claimed the first general classification victory of his career when winning the Ster ZLM Toer on Sunday by eight seconds from Lars Boom (Rabobank).
Top three places on the opening two stages in Holland had put him joint top of the standings but the race-defining performance came in Saturday's queen stage as the world champion stayed in the mix throughout on the hilly route in the Ardennes.
While some of his fellow sprinters lost upwards of 13 minutes, Cavendish was in contention right to the finish as he chased home stage winner Boom on the climb to the line.
And he then closed out the overall win on the pan-flat final stage from Schijndel to Boxtel, with Team Sky and Rabobank dictating matters on the 163.5 kilometres route to make sure it ended with a bunch sprint.
That was won by Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), with Mark Renshaw (Rabobank) second and Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol) in third.
With Cavendish finishing in the front group he maintained his advantage over Boom as Roelandts moved up to third, a further six seconds back and just ahead of Team Sky's Juan Antonio Flecha in fourth.
Kittel pipped Cavendish to the green points jersey while Nelson Oliveira (RadioShack-Nissan) topped the mountains classification.
Cavendish will now use the next two weeks to hone his preparation for the Tour de France which starts in Liege on June 30, swiftly followed by the Olympics Road Race.
He told www.teamsky.com: "I've been second a couple of times in the past but this is my first GC win and I'm really, really happy with it."
Reflecting on what proved a key third stage, he added: "The team rode so well yesterday, setting such a high tempo on the front that guys were going out the back all day. We were down to just 25 at the finish - it was incredible and I'm really proud of what we did.
"In today's final stage there was a dangerous Katusha guy [Aliaksandr Kuchynski] up the road in the break at just one minute back on the GC but we managed to bring it all back together.
"The calibre of some of the sprinters here is incredibly high and while I couldn't quite get a win today it was about making sure I kept the yellow jersey. I'm really happy."
Turning his attention to the Tour and Olympics he said: "I'm training really well. I wanted to be in my best form and am definitely in it so I'm looking forward to France now and hopefully Team Sky getting the green and yellow jerseys."
Asked what the fortnight leading into the Tour will entail training-wise, Cavendish explained: "It's pretty much about relaxing now and really looking after myself these next two weeks. You've got to start the Tour de France as fresh as possible - especially so this year with the Olympics so soon after."
The final stage had seen a four-man break go clear early before they were joined by Greg Henderson (Lotto-Belisol) and Dries Hollanders (Metec Continental Cycling Team) - and it was that duo who stayed away longest.
However with 10 bonus seconds on offer to the stage winner the escape group's advantage was kept under a tight rein throughout by Cavendish and Boom's teams.
The gap came down steadily in the closing stages and it was all back together inside the final 10km on the last finishing circuit. By that point Argos-Shimano had joined in the work up front and they were rewarded with the win as Kittel stormed to a clear-cut triumph as Cavendish sealed the overall title.