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Cavendish revels in latest Tour victory
World champion Mark Cavendish compared his Tour de France to Wayne Rooney playing in defence after begging to be unleashed before delivering a 22nd sensational stage win of his remarkable cycling career.
Cavendish has had little opportunity in his sixth Tour, with Bradley Wiggins Team Sky's priority and closing in on a first British yellow jersey triumph in Paris on Sunday.
Following the 222.5-kilometre 18th stage from Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde, Wiggins retained a commanding lead of two minutes five seconds over Team Sky colleague Chris Froome, with Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) third, 2mins 41secs behind.
It was Wiggins who intervened when Team Sky sports director Sean Yates determined at the daily morning meeting the squad should let a break contest the stage victory, and five hours later the Tour leader was instrumental in helping Cavendish to victory.
But the 27-year-old Manxman's win - a success which brought him level with Lance Armstrong and Andre Darrigade in fourth place in the all-time rankings of Tour stage winners - owed in no small part to his individual brilliance as he weaved his way to the line.
"It would've been easy for my guys to cruise in to Paris now after the mountains," Cavendish said. "Sean Yates said this morning 'just take it easy today. If a break goes, good'. I was like 'Can I have a sprint, please? Just let me have a sprint'.
"Then Brad piped up and said 'yes, we'll work for a sprint'. It's been great to be part of the team, what they're doing this year, but it obviously puts me in a difficult situation. I'm part of the team, but I'm not doing what I can do as an individual rider.
"It's like Wayne Rooney playing in defence. You can still win a match, but you can't do your part of that to the best of your ability. Today we set it up and we scored the goal."