Cavendish is known as one of cycling's best sprinters. Last year he was awarded the Tour's green jersey as the race's best sprinter.
After watching Stage 2 on Monday, we shouldn't be surprised. He pulled away in the race's final kilometer to best Andre Greipel and Matt Goss and won the 207 kilometer hike from Vise to Tournai.
His victory didn't change the overall standings. Fabian Cancellara, Bradley Wiggins and Sylvain Chavanel still lead the competition, but it did show Cavendish's ability to perform under expectations. His sprinting ability is unrivaled, and he was expected to win a (mostly) flat stage.
Of the 18 remaining stages in the Tour, seven are classified as "flat" stages. Judging by today's results, and Cavendish's past success in cycling sprints, you have to believe he is going to be a force from here until the finish line in Paris Champs-Élysées. He may trail his Team Sky teammates throughout the mountainous stages, but his pace on the plains will keep him in the thick of competition.
There's been some speculation in the past concerning the emphasis Cavendish is placing on this year's tour. He is set to represent Great Britain in the Summer Olympics' road race. That race starts just six days after the Tour de France concludes.
He could still drop out, but he has tried to put some of that speculation to rest recently. If he stays in, and competes full throttle, the rest of the field is going to face stiff competition. He's a renowned competitor, and he's a "lone wolf" for the most part (his team probably is focusing on Wiggins' yellow-jersey hopes).
Stage 2 gave a brief glimpse into the rest of the Tour's landscape. We will enter the mountain stages starting with Stage 7, but Cavendish will have a chance to whittle his way into the pack by then. He isn't a great climber, but his flat-land racing is matched by very few cyclists.
After he broke away from Greipel on Monday, one thing became very obvious. Cavendish is fast, and he's in the Tour to win (at least) the green jersey.
Expect him to throw a wrench in Cancelarra and Wiggins' plans throughout the race's coming stages.