Mark Cavendish capped a stunning Tour de France for Team Sky as he sprinted to victory on the Champs-Elysees.
The world champion took a resounding fourth consecutive victory in Paris after being led out by Team Sky team-mate and overall winner Bradley Wiggins.
The result marked not only the first time the rainbow jersey has won in the famous final showpiece, but the sixth stage victory of the race for Team Sky. His 23rd Tour stage win, the success moved Cavendish up to a standalone fourth on the all-time list at the world's greatest race.
Having hauled the peloton under the one kilometre banner Wiggins was able to raise his arms in victory behind having led home a Team Sky 1-2, beating compatriot and team-mate Chris Froome by a final margin of 3:21.
After a sprint of over 300 metres Cavendish held off green jersey winner Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) on a historic day for British cycling.
The win also marked the 40th of the season for Team Sky, making the team the most successful in cycling this season, as well as WorldTour leaders.
After crossing the line a jubilant Cavendish said: "It’s incredible what we’ve achieved today – what a team. We got a one and two on GC but still we were riding to control things on the Champs-Elysees. It was an honour to have the yellow jersey leading me out. Bradley told me he’d go full gas to the last kilometre and then Edvald (Boasson Hagen) led me into the last corner. The finish couldn’t have been more perfect – no better end to this Tour.
"It’s an incredible achievement for the team. Four years ago we said we were setting out to win the Tour, but we haven’t just done that, we’ve got second place as well and a handful of stages. Seven stages have been won by British guys this year so that’s one in three – not a bad stat."
Cavendish admitted that the final day, despite being a celebration of the team's overall victory, was also a big source of pressure.
"There was huge pressure on the team and that’s the only time we’ve had it on a bunch sprint all Tour," he added. "At the start I said ‘we’ve got to win this – you do this, you do this and you do this.
"We controlled it, we did it, and it worked. It was incredible – what a sight seeing the yellow jersey of Brad Wiggins pulling at the end after Chris Froome – second on GC - had done his turn. Then Edvald Boasson Hagen stepped up to lead me until the last corner and then I just said ‘I’m going to go early’ and see what happens. I did the same last year and just gave it everything to the line – I wanted it so bad. It’s the cherry on the top of the Tour cake for us.
"That last stretch has an uneven road surface. It’s cobbled and slightly uphill and it’s too far to jump out of the corner but not far enough to get a good run up. I went a bit early if I’m honest, I wanted to go from about 300m, but we came around the cornerand because I knew I had the acceleration, I tried to do it out of the corner, distance the rest, and then hopefully hang on."
The peloton rolled out of Rambouillet ahead of 120 kilometres which were part celebration, part flat out racing.
The final day of the Tour saw a race within a race as the sprinters looked to battle it out for their most prestigious victory on the calendar.
The slow-paced lead up to the French capital gave Wiggins and Team Sky the chance to pose for photos and for the maillot jaune to drink the traditional champagne of race winner elect.
Despite the early celebrations the team were fully committed to giving Cavendish the lead-out he craved and took up the pace-setting as soon as the race hit the finishing circuit.
George Hincapie (BMC Racing) had the honour of leading the peloton across the line for the first time in his 17th and final Tour de France.
Attacks followed thick and fast thereafter with everyone wanting to show themselves on the most famous stage, Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan) and Danilo Hondo (Lampre-ISD) firing clear and Lars Bak (Lotto-Belisol) bridging across before the group swelled to 10-strong.
Team Sky never let the break out of their sights over eight laps of the famous course, Wiggins staying safe towards the front of the bunch with the world champion sat on his wheel.
Liquigas took it up in the closing stages but as the race headed until the flamme rouge it was the maillot jaune of Wiggins which hit the front, helped tee up Cavendish for the storybook ending.
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