Madrid: Mark Cavendish credited Slovakian team mate Peter Velits for his third victory in the Tour of Spain after the Briton won the 18th stage from Valladolid.
Wearing the green jersey of the points competition leader, Cavendish crossed the finish line in Salamanca a length ahead of Argentine Juan Jose Haedo and Portugal`s Manuel Cardoso.
But despite his clear victory, the HTC-Columbia rider said he had experienced a fraught moment with three kilometres to go, which only Velits`s quick response had resolved.
"There was a moment when I suddenly lost 50 or 60 places and I panicked," Cavendish told reporters.
"I shouted across to Peter and he did a massive turn of about a kilometre or so, guiding me up the side of the bunch back to where I needed to be.”
"He`s fighting for the overall victory but he was still prepared to use up a lot of energy for me. That shows real commitment to the team and it takes a very special person to do that. I can`t thank him enough."
On a quiet day for the overall favourites, Italian Vincenzo Nibali remains in the lead ahead of Spain`s Ezequiel Mosquera, with Velits third.
Cavendish said the slightly uphill finish in the heart of Salamanca`s city centre had been made tougher because he did not know which gear to use.
"I changed gear about five times in 500 metres because I was working out whether to do it all on power or on pure speed," he said.
"I had to power after (Australian team mate) Matt Goss and finally with 180 metres to go, I went for it.”
"If I had the strength to get this win, it was all thanks to the work the team did."
Cavendish said after the Tour of Spain and the world championships in Melbourne on Oct. 3, he would ride the Commonwealth Games road race a week later in Delhi as his last race of the season.
"There will be a great group of guys riding for the Isle of Man and it`s not often I get to ride wearing that jersey. I`m looking forward to that," he said.