MONTPELLIER, France (Reuters) - Mark Cavendish delivered a textbook sprint in the finale of the 193-kms 15th stage of the Tour de France in Montpellier on Sunday to snatch his fourth victory in this year's race.
The win, his 19th overall in the Tour de France, strengthened the Manxman's top spot in the race for the green jersey.
Already the most successful sprinter in the race history, the Briton is now tied in seventh place in terms of stage victories with 1909 Tour winner Francois Faber.
"My name is on the list but it is for the (HTC Highroad) team. I don't think there's a sprinter with more wins on the Tour and it shows the commitment these guys have toward me. I'm incredibly lucky for that," he said.
"I struggled a lot in the mountains and for them I wanted it to be worth it. It was technically difficult, lots of winds, lots of attacks but we stayed disciplined."
The Manxman finished the previous stage in Plateau de Beille just inside the time cut but had kept enough strength to beat his rivals as well as the strong winds sweeping the course all day.
"What gets you through the mountains is the smell of a success like today's," he said.
"You're tired but it's not going to affect the edge of your sprint."
His rivals for the green jersey tried to spoil the HTC Highroad show toward the end and Belgian champion Philippe Gilbert moved three kms from the line hoping to avoid a bunch sprint but the Briton's guard reined him in.
VOECKLER DISMISSES CHANCES
In the points classification, Cavendish now leads Spaniard Jose Joaquin Rojas by 37 points and Gilbert by 71 before the second rest day.
"You can never take anything for granted. I will try to keep getting points and see what happens," said the Manxman, narrowly beaten for the green jersey in the last two years.
"I was not feeling too good today. I had the rest day on my mind, like many of us," he said.
Yet, with only six stages left in the Tour, the Frenchman keeps shrugging off suggestions that he can win the Tour.
"To be honest, I don't believe in it for a second," he said.
The last of the escapees, Terpstra, was caught two kilometers from the line.
(Editing by John Mehaffey)