The winner of 24 stages of the Tour de France since the 2008 edition only has one victory to his credit in the 2013. Every success is a major achievement but Mark Cavendish isn't used to being beaten. In Tours at the end of stage 12, he was poised to add another win to his tally after another perfect lead-out by Geert Steegmans.It didn't happen.
Marcel Kittel has arrived.
The winner of stage one backed up his effort in Bastia by beating a surprised André Greipel in St-Malo; and the Argos-Shimano speedster did the same again in Tours against Cavendish.
In pure sprints, this trio has a shadow with a green hue. Peter Sagan has one stage victory to his name in 2013 but it came on a day of constant undulation; on the flat, he doesn't quite have the speed to match Kittel, Cavendish or Greipel.
These are all things we've learned in the opening half of the 2013 Tour but there are two more ‘flat' stages for the sprinters to continue confounding one another. If anything the 100th Tour has an added element of suspense again... ‘Cav' no longer wins on a whim. He has a rival who is showing no sign of slowing down. The sprint stanza continues tomorrow. These are the names of those most likely to feature at the finish but will the surprises keep coming.