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Cavendish gets helping hand from Wiggins
Roger Vaughan
13:19 AEST Sat Jul 21 2012

BRIVE-LA-GAILLARDE, France, July 20 AAP - The plan for the all-conquering Sky team in stage 18 of the Tour de France was to have an easier day.

Then the world's fastest man put up his hand and asked for a rare spell in the limelight.

The end result was world champion Mark Cavendish unleashing one of the best sprints of his career.

Sky were so committed to Cavendish on Friday that even the yellow jersey of race leader Brad Wiggins and second-placed Chris Froome were leading him into the finish.

Just as the peloton caught the remnants of the breakaway in the home straight at Brive-la-Gaillarde, Cavendish hit out with a 300m charge that no one could match.

"This morning, on the bus, (team director) Sean Yates was like, okay boys, it's an easy day today ... lets let the break go," Cavendish said.

"But I was like, oh please let me have a chance!

"Then Brad came up and said, look, we're going to ride today, we'll make a sprint'.

"He could have easily sat up at the end but Brad and Froomey just came up and I'm so grateful for what they did."

It was the second stage win in this Tour for Cavendish and the 22nd of his career.

Another win would put him ahead of Frenchman Andre Darrigade as the most prolific sprinter in Tour history.

But this has been a challenging Tour for Cavendish, who has had to assume a much lower profile on the Sky team as they worked for Wiggins.

Cavendish admits he has had an emotional race.

He and Australian teammate Richie Porte crashed in stage 17 and Cavendish also hit the deck in the first week.

The man nicknamed the Manx Missile will now aim to win the Tour's last stage in Paris for the fourth year in a row.

He is also the favourite for the July 28 Olympics road race in London.

"We still have the Champs Elysees to come and looking at the margin he won by today, he can repeat his usual antics (there)," Yates said.

"We don't want to be greedy, but we're here to perform and we're delivering."