Kuurne - Bruxelles - Kuurne

Cav the hero in Kuurne

Team Sky deliver world champ in style

By Jonathan Turner   Last updated: 2nd March 2012

Mark Cavendish sprinted to a superb victory at Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne after a dominant Team Sky performance.

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"It was the display of a team that looks like it's been riding together for years."

Mark Cavendish

The world champion was brilliantly led out by last year's winner Chris Sutton at the end of the 195 kilometres route and he finished it off in style by accelerating clear of his rivals.

Yauheni Hutarovich (FDJ) took second place, with Kenny Van Hummel (Vacansoleil) in third.

Cavendish was adding a first victory in the Belgian Classic to his palmarès having made it one of his early-season targets. It was his third win of the new campaign and an eighth success of 2012 for Team Sky as a whole.

Textbook display

The eight-man squad - which also featured Alex Dowsett, Bernhard Eisel, Juan Antonio Flecha, Mathew Hayman, Jeremy Hunt and Ian Stannard - had earlier covered all the moves before Flecha and Hayman worked their way into a breakaway group for the second day in succession, along with Stannard.

That forced the Lotto-Belisol team of André Greipel to do much of the work behind to close down the gap and it was back together shortly after the Nokereberg, the last of the day's eight climbs which came with 52km remaining.

From that point onwards Team Sky bossed the race from the front, first keeping a new seven-man escape group within range as the field hurtled towards the two 16km loops around Kuurne which rounded off the race.

The catch came with 5km to go and the Team Sky lead-out train was then joined by FDJ and Lotto-Belisol but they held they nerve perfectly to unleash Cavendish with around 250 metres to go and the world champion made no mistake as he produced his trademark surge to settle the issue.

Teamwork the key

Afterwards Cavendish was keen to pay tribute to his team-mates as he told us: "I didn't really have to do anything, the team did everything for me and it was incredible.

"I was ill all day and kept vomiting but I was always kept at the front by the whole team. Then when the split went on the Oude-Kwaremont it was perfect as we had three in the front while the other guys stayed with me and we didn't have to do any chasing.

"With 50k left I still didn't feel marvellous but just kept going and was being kept out of trouble all the time. The team took control and just dominated it - it was a super display.

"They controlled it at the end to deliver me and with 250 metres to go I kicked and that was it."

It was the perfect response from the team, five of whom had been in Oman with Cavendish when they weren't able to add to their two victories from the previous week in Qatar, as he explained: "We were obviously disappointed after Oman but they couldn't have been any better today. It was the display of a team that looks like it's been riding together for years. Nobody had to communicate or call any shots - everybody just knew what had to be done and fitted in perfectly.

Sacrifice

"We had last year's winner leading me out in CJ [Sutton] and for him to sacrifice the chance of going for a double shows the class he has. That was great and for Team Sky to win it two years in a row is very, very nice."

That was echoed by Sports Director Steven de Jongh, himself a winner of the race as a rider in 2004 and 2008, who said: "I'm really pleased with the whole team - they did a brilliant job. They did exactly what we'd asked them to do - and as you've heard Cav is really happy with how it all went."

Asked if there were any moments of concern, de Jongh added: "It all went to plan but you're always nervous, especially when it comes to the finish. You can see everything that's going on; you know Cav is okay and you just hope it's all going to work out as you want.

"In Oman it didn't work and then everyone starts to be a little bit nervous but it's always going to need time to gel and luckily today it came out good. CJ did a brilliant job as did all the other guys.

"We've got a good score in this race - Ian [Stannard] had a third place here in terrible conditions in the first year, CJ won it last year and now Cav has followed it up today. It's rounded off a nice weekend!"

Next up for Cavendish is Tirreno-Adriatico between 7-13 March before another big target in the shape of Milan-San Remo, with the world champion determined to repeat his 2009 triumph in the first Monument of the year, this time in the rainbow jersey.

He explained: "We're ahead of schedule so we'll focus on Tirreno now and then freshen up for San Remo. I think with the squad we have we can be confident that we can be competitive for that."

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