Despite his haul of stage and single day road race victories, winning the Ster ZLM Toer was Mark Cavendish’s first stage race victory.
Whilst Cavendish was pushed off the top step of the podium by Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel on the first two sprinter stages, it was the Queen stage in the Ardenne hills that sealed the victory for the Isle of Man World Road Race Champion.
Photo: John Pierce/PhotoSport International UK USA Asia
While some of his fellow sprinters lost upwards of 13 minutes, Cavendish was in contention right to the finish as he chased home Tour of Britain winner Lars Boom on the climb to the line.
On the final stage, Cavendish was content to revel in the glory of a stage race victory, crossing the line in 16th place and leading team Sky to yet another victory in the UCI 2.1 stage race. The final stage saw Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) win his second stage of the race with Australian 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, just ahead of Team Sky’s Juan Antonio Flecha in fourth.
Kittel with his two stage wins, pipped Cavendish to the Green points jersey while Nelson Oliveira (RadioShack-Nissan) topped the mountains classification.
Cavendish will now spend the next two weeks preparing for his next big challenge, the 2012 Tour de France which starts in Liege (Belgium) on June 30.
Cavendish told his team’s website: “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. 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.”
Looking ahead at two of the season’s key goals which fall one after the other now, the Tour de France and Olympics, Cavendish explained “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. 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.”
1 Mark Cavendish Sky Procycling 16:11:55
2 Lars Boom Rabobank Cycling Team 00:08
3 Jurgen Roelandts Lotto – Belisol Team 00:14
4 Juan Antonio Flecha Sky Procycling @ same time
5 Giacomo Nizzolo RadioShack – Nissan 00:18
6 Nikolay Trusov Team Rusvelo @ same time
7 Koen De Kort Argos-Shimano @ same time.
8 Maxime Vantomme Katusha Team @ same time.
9 Sven Vandousselaere Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator @ same time.
10 Lars Ytting Bak Lotto – Belisol Team @ same time.
11 Tom Dumoulin Argos-Shimano @ same time.
12 Jelle Wallays Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator 00:22
13 Jonathan Cantwell Team Saxo Bank 00:26
14 Kasper Larsen Klostergaard Team Saxo Bank @ same time.
15 Marcel Wyss Team NetApp @ same time.
16 Bjorn Leukemans Vacansoleil – DCM Pro Cycling Team @ same time.
17 Dennis Van Winden Rabobank Cycling Team 00:29
18 Nikolas Maes Omega Pharma – Quickstep 00:47
19 Pim Ligthart Vacansoleil – DCM Pro Cycling Team 00:50
20 Ian Stannard Sky Procycling 00:58
34 Mark Renshaw Rabobank Cycling Team 01:57
50 Adam Hansen Lotto – Belisol Team 03:13
55 Nathan Haas Garmin – Barracuda 04:19
58 Iljo Keisse Omega Pharma – Quickstep 06:25
62 Thomas De Gendt Vacansoleil – DCM Pro Cycling Team 11:06
64 Jens Voigt RadioShack – Nissan 11:39
66 Bernhard Eisel Sky Procycling 12:07
67 Mikhail Ignatyev Katusha Team 12:33
68 Marcel Kittel Argos-Shimano 13:08
69 Andre Greipel Lotto – Belisol Team 13:16
75 Graeme Brown Rabobank Cycling Team zt.
87 Luke Roberts Team Saxo Bank 14:37
88 Matthew Brammeier Omega Pharma – Quickstep 14:44
93 Andrew Fenn Omega Pharma – Quickstep 15:17
111 Jeremy Hunt Sky Procycling 18:03
131 Alex Dowsett Sky Procycling 24:53