Francois Hollande picked the right day to visit

Mark Cavendish - wins Stage 18 - 20th July 2012 — Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde, 222.5 km (138.3 miles)

The Tour.

It’s not Le Tour de France any more it’s The Tour of France. With Bradley Wiggins in yellow and Mark Cavendish winning the stage, Britain’s fifth so far, the newly installed dwarf that replaced the old dwarf as French president couldn’t have looked more like one of Snow White’s seven. Grumpy.

Mark Cavendish - Stage 18
Mark Cavendish - wins Stage 18 - 20th July 2012 — Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde, 222.5 km (138.3 miles)

What looked like being a quiet day for Sky, protecting the yellow jersey, with one of their riders sent off in the breakaway group, Edvald Boasson Hagen, for the first time in the race they had no reason to chase it down and do any work. Take the day off.

So team manager Sean Yates had said before to the the team but the riders had a different idea as Cav pleaded for a chance to do what he was born to do on the first sprint stage he’d seen for a while. Thankfully for him and us Wiggins and the rest of the team were happy to push themselves and repay the domestique duties Cav had put in through the previous three weeks.

We knew it was a hard stage and it would have been easy for the guys to concentrate on Paris, Sean said take it easy, let the break go but Brad jumped in immediately and said that we should go for the sprint and he would lead it out. Mark Cavendish

We hadn’t seen much of the Manx Missile during those three weeks, since his first stage win on stage 2. He’d been there on some of the intermediate sprints, winning the race for the lower placings behind breakaways. He wasn’t quite delivered in one sprint and crashed before another could pan out. Other than that it was just images of him with the rainbow jersey bulging with water bottles or rain jackets heading back from the team car. A true team man.

Again it didn’t look like it was going to be his name with that breakaway. But slowly and surely they were wound in as Sky came to the front. And as soon as you saw the yellow helmet and jersey of Wiggins powering away at the front you knew it was on. Boasson Hagen was on his back wheel, Cavendish locked to the Norwegian’s.

But there was still a hell of a lot to do. Two of the breakaway were still slightly ahead, he had to do a lot of work on his own to bridge the gap to those in front, Nicolas Roche and Luis León Sánchez. He was flying and he flew past them that took Sánchez by surprise. You could see the look on the Spaniard’s face. In a split second it went from who’s that? to Where did he come from? to Oh, it’s Cave as he sat up, freewheeling in, knowing all was lost.

Cavendish had destroyed all the pretenders to his crown. Goss, Sagan, Greipel, first two were second and third but in all honesty they were nowhere. Three weeks of frustration had blown them away as Cav joined Lance Armstrong and André Darrigade in 4th place in the all-time Tour stage wins list, tying Darrigade’s record for victories by a sprinter with 22.

Tomorrow’s final stage into Paris is Cavendish’s favourite, he’ll be going for his fourth straight victory on the Champs-Élysées and to break Darrigade’s record. With that lead out and that finishing speed, anyone backing against him?

Oh and Bradley Wiggins picked up yet another yellow jersey and is one more day closer to his dream coming true.

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