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Tour takes Mark Cavendish home to Chateauroux

Mark Cavendish will complete a full circle in the Tour de France when Friday's 218-km seventh stage ends...

Britain's Mark Cavendish of HTC-Highroad sprints to win the 12th stage of the 94th Tour of Italy. Picture: Luk Benies/AFP

Mark Cavendish will complete a full circle in the Tour de France when Friday's 218-km seventh stage ends in <place w:st="on"><city w:st="on">Chateauroux, the town in which he snatched the first of his 16 stage wins in 2008.

That day, he beat three-times world champion Oscar Freire of <country-region w:st="on"><place w:st="on">Spain</country-region>, six-times green jersey winner Erik Zabel and world champion and current Tour leader Thor Hushovd.

The maiden Tour victory, after two stage wins on the Giro, was enough to reveal arguably the best sprinter of his generation and one of the most successful in the race.

The parallel with 2008 is all the more striking as the <city w:st="on"><place w:st="on">Chateauroux stage was followed like this year by a ride between Aigurande and Super-Besse.

Should he repeat the feat, Cavendish would become the eighth most successful rider of all time in terms of stage wins, on a par with 1920s French sprinter Jean Alavoine.

The region always suited the Manxman -- in 2009, when the peloton returned to the area for a finish in Issoudun, the Briton won again.

Without a single climb, the long southbound ride will be ideal for mass sprinters and Cavendish should beware of the same rivals as usual in the finale -- American Tyler <city w:st="on">Farrar, <country-region w:st="on">Spain</country-region>'s Jose Joaquin Rojas, <country-region w:st="on"><place w:st="on">Italy</country-region>'s Alessandro Petacchi or young Briton Ben Swift.

Timeline

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