Cavendish takes win number three

For most people, 13 is an unlucky number. Fabian Cancellara famously wears the dossard bearing that numeral upside down to avoid its potential misfortune. This afternoon in Bourg-lès-Valence however, it was a lucky number for Mark Cavendish as he took his 13th win and went into the history books - he has now won the most Tour de France stages of any current sprinter. The stage was overshadowed when Cavendish's teammate, Mark Renshaw, was thrown out of the race for head-butting Julian Dean (Garmin-Transitions)

However, by winning Cavendish has beaten the record held by his mentor, Erik Zabel, who previously held the record whilst a professional, with 12 stage wins in la grande boucle. Cavendish did it in the style to which we've become accustomed, the HTC-Columbia sprinter continuing to gain confidence in this year's race after a shaky start.

He had to go from a long way out to earn the victory though, courtesy of a coming together between Antipodean duo Mark Renshaw and Julian Dean in the final 500 metres. In a sign of his increasing sprinting maturity, Cavendish saw the opportunity to dash for double the distance he normally would - almost 400 metres - and backed himself to get the job done.

"Julian came and he was fighting with Mark at the finish and it left me boxed in - if he'd have pushed him across, as soon as I saw a gap I had to go," said Cavendish after the finish.

"Normally I go with 200 or 250 [metres] maximum and at 375 metres to go I saw a gap... it wasn't so much a sprint but a little breakaway, well, by my standards anyway! It was hard, actually... It was a really, really long way to the finish - I thought somebody would be on my wheel and come around, but they didn't," he explained.

And while both Dean and Renshaw are laid back guys off the bike, they gnashed their teeth with some mutual head butting preventing the pair heading too close to the barriers as the New Zealander came towards his Australian counterpart with Cavendish on the wheel.

"I don't know whether Tyler [Farrar] was with Julian, maybe he thought Tyler was with him... otherwise he was just trying to put Mark off," continued Cavendish, who had a back seat view of the incident before jetting off for the stage win. "Like I said, if Julian was [coming across intentionally] it shut the door and I could't go - maybe that's what he was doing: trying to shut the door for me."

After another day of toil from Bob Stapleton's men that reaped the ultimate reward - another stage win - Cavendish paid tribute to the riders who displayed an amazing amount of calmness under fire this afternoon and helped him to his record-breaking victory. "We can just see how good Mark is - he's fighting [for me] and he's an incredible guy, a great guy and I'm so lucky to have him and all the guys, actually," he said.

Yet Cavendish will be without his brother-in-arms for the remainder of the race. The judges saw the incident with Dean quite differently, and disqualified Renshaw from the race for head-butting Dean in the sprint. This leaves HTC-Columbia lacking an important weapon in the battle for the green jersey.

While there were no changes to the overall standings, the complexion of the points classification changed significantly, with Alessandro Petacchi reclaiming the maillot vert and Cavendish now trailing the Italian by a mere 29 points. Thor Hushovd drops to second in the battle for green. Surely this is a sub plot of this year's Tour that will be altered all the way to the final day in Paris.

Like a bird on the wire...

After yesterday's unofficial rest day the peloton would be looking to take a little more respite from this transitional stage that shuffled riders along from Sisteron to Bourg-lès-Valence over 184.5km. Therefore the plan was simple: give the break an early start, leave it enough rope (so to speak) and shoot it down when the time was right.

Knowing that this would likely be the plan, Anthony Geslin (Française des Jeux), Stephane Augé (Cofidis) and Jose-Alberto Benitez (Footon-Servetto) attacked from the first kilometre of racing and established a lead of 4:15 after 40km. Unlike yesterday's stage however, there was no real chance it would survive to the finish but the leading trio was happy with the status quo, it seemed.

Keen to make what he could of the day's only categorised climb, mountains classification leader Jérôme Pineau added a single point to his lead in the standings, taking the last available point on offer with the break 3:16 ahead and ensuring he's be on the podium at day's end with a polka dot jersey on his back.

Having survived the Alpine onslaught of the past five days, HTC-Columbia's usual express service was resumed on the journey into the Drôme department of the Rhône-Alpes region and despite the break's advantage rarely dropping below two minutes for much of the stage it never reached any great heights.

The escape enjoyed a gap that hovered between two and three minutes thanks largely to the work done by the aforementioned workhorses of HTC-Columbia and the planning from their team car.

With 84km to go and the riders heading through Die the gap had been reduced to 1:32, although that shot back up to two minutes eight kilometres later when it was realised the break would be caught too soon at this rate.

David Zabriskie could be seen supplementing HTC-Columbia's work in the second half of the stage; it was all hands on deck for Jonathan Vaughters' team as Garmin-Transitions and Tyler Farrar had lost another ally before the start in Sisteron, with Robbie Hunter withdrawing due to injuries suffered in a crash yesterday.

Managing the minute margin

To avoid potential counter attacks and a disrupted lead in to Valence, Garmin-Transitions, HTC-Columbia and Lampre-Farnese Vini were maintaining the break's advantage to a manageable minute as the leaders had 45km left to race. Five kilometres later an attempted counter attack, in sight of the leading trio, forced the break's advantage below a minute and put the sprinters' teams on notice that they may not have everything their own way in the final part of the stage.

The final 30 kilometres were punctuated by a significant headwind, the perfect ground for a former time trial world champion to pull along the peloton, and that's exactly what Bert Grabsch did for his British sprinting star behind. Meanwhile, ahead of them attacks were beginning amongst the leading trio as Augé tried his luck, although Benitez and Geslin were having nothing of it, the former launching his own sortie with the main field breathing down the escapees' necks.

It only served to delay the inevitable and shortly after the main field passed the 25km-to-go banner it was lights out for Augé and Benitez with Geslin conceding defeat, his job of playing promo guy done for the day. It wasn't the earliest catch of any sprint stage at this year's Tour, giving the opportunists ample time to disrupt the best laid plans of those who were hoping to lead out their sprinter in the fast finale.

Fierce crosswinds on the final 17km meant that Saxo Bank got to the front of the field quickly to protect Andy Schleck as RadioShack did likewise for its man Levi Leipheimer. The protective custody for some of the leading general classification riders worked in favour of the sprinters' teams as it kept affairs together to avoid any dangerous moves from those who had their hearts set on glory.

Flying into Bourg-lès-Valence, the strung out peloton was still led by Saxo Bank with 10km remaining, the likes of Cancellara, Fuglsang and Voigt doing what was required to keep their man safe; four kiometres later, their jobs completed, they handed over the reins of the peloton to HTC-Columbia, whose time it was to take over and begin the lead out for Cavendish.

Again the spoiling tactics employed by Lampre-Farnese Vini during the Tour's opening week sprints were used by the Italian squad, putting men in front of the American team shortly before the five-to-go banner. Petacchi's men, plus Team Sky and Garmin-Transitions were all were hoping to disrupt the 'Yellow Train' but to his credit, engine driver Bernhard Eisel maintained the momentum of his charges with a massive tailwind not assisting their cause because the high speeds involved kept the contenders in with a chance.

When it counted, like so many times in recent history however, HTC-Columbia held its nerve and delivered Cavendish to the line thanks to Eisel and Renshaw in the final kilometres. Winding their way through the best passages that emerged at the head of proceedings - through the middle, to the left, to the right... wherever a gap appeared, the men in yellow and white seemed to be there to get the job done.

All that was required to finish the tale was a long sprint from the Manxman, and he turned on the gas for almost 400 metres - his most confident and accomplished performance of this year's Tour - to easily see off any challenge from Petacchi, Farrar and José Rojas, who finished second, third and fourth respectively.

Full Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team HTC - Columbia4:42:29
2Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese ViniRow 1 - Cell 2
3Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - TransitionsRow 2 - Cell 2
4Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d'EpargneRow 3 - Cell 2
5Robbie McEwen (Aus) Team KatushaRow 4 - Cell 2
6Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Bbox Bouygues TelecomRow 5 - Cell 2
7Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test TeamRow 6 - Cell 2
8Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 7 - Cell 2
9Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 8 - Cell 2
10Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team MilramRow 9 - Cell 2
11Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Bbox Bouygues TelecomRow 10 - Cell 2
12Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 11 - Cell 2
13Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) RabobankRow 12 - Cell 2
14Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 13 - Cell 2
15Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 14 - Cell 2
16Luke Roberts (Aus) Team MilramRow 15 - Cell 2
17Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La MondialeRow 16 - Cell 2
18Kevin De Weert (Bel) Quick StepRow 17 - Cell 2
19Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 18 - Cell 2
20Danilo Hondo (Ger) Lampre-Farnese ViniRow 19 - Cell 2
21Christian Knees (Ger) Team MilramRow 20 - Cell 2
22Daniel Lloyd (GBr) Cervelo Test TeamRow 21 - Cell 2
23Julian Dean (NZl) Garmin - TransitionsRow 22 - Cell 2
24Martin Elmiger (Swi) AG2R La MondialeRow 23 - Cell 2
25George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 24 - Cell 2
26Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team MilramRow 25 - Cell 2
27Alexandr Pliuschin (Mda) Team KatushaRow 26 - Cell 2
28Sébastien Minard (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en LigneRow 27 - Cell 2
29Brett Lancaster (Aus) Cervelo Test TeamRow 28 - Cell 2
30Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Team HTC - ColumbiaRow 29 - Cell 2
31Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-DoimoRow 30 - Cell 2
32Michael Rogers (Aus) Team HTC - ColumbiaRow 31 - Cell 2
33Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 32 - Cell 2
34Juan Manuel Gárate Cepa (Spa) RabobankRow 33 - Cell 2
35Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Garmin - TransitionsRow 34 - Cell 2
36Denis Menchov (Rus) RabobankRow 35 - Cell 2
37Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) RabobankRow 36 - Cell 2
38Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing TeamRow 37 - Cell 2
39Andriy Grivko (Ukr) AstanaRow 38 - Cell 2
40Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) AstanaRow 39 - Cell 2
41Thomas Löfkvist (Swe) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 40 - Cell 2
42Robert Gesink (Ned) RabobankRow 41 - Cell 2
43Benjamin Noval Gonzalez (Spa) AstanaRow 42 - Cell 2
44Andreas Klöden (Ger) Team RadioshackRow 43 - Cell 2
45Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick StepRow 44 - Cell 2
46Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team RadioshackRow 45 - Cell 2
47Luis León Sánchez Gil (Spa) Caisse d'EpargneRow 46 - Cell 2
48Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Team MilramRow 47 - Cell 2
49Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 48 - Cell 2
50Bram Tankink (Ned) RabobankRow 49 - Cell 2
51Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française des JeuxRow 50 - Cell 2
52Julien El Farès (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en LigneRow 51 - Cell 2
53Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Caisse d'EpargneRow 52 - Cell 2
54Inaki Isasi Flores (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 53 - Cell 2
55David Millar (GBr) Garmin - TransitionsRow 54 - Cell 2
56Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team KatushaRow 55 - Cell 2
57Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test TeamRow 56 - Cell 2
58Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team HTC - ColumbiaRow 57 - Cell 2
59Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Team KatushaRow 58 - Cell 2
60Michael Barry (Can) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 59 - Cell 2
61Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) Française des JeuxRow 60 - Cell 2
62Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Quick StepRow 61 - Cell 2
63Benoït Vaugrenard (Fra) Française des JeuxRow 62 - Cell 2
64Sebastian Lang (Ger) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 63 - Cell 2
65Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo BankRow 64 - Cell 2
66John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 65 - Cell 2
67Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Team RadioshackRow 66 - Cell 2
68Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-DoimoRow 67 - Cell 2
69José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d'EpargneRow 68 - Cell 2
70Damien Monier (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en LigneRow 69 - Cell 2
71Cyril Gautier (Fra) Bbox Bouygues TelecomRow 70 - Cell 2
72Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese ViniRow 71 - Cell 2
73Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 72 - Cell 2
74Maarten Wijnants (Bel) Quick StepRow 73 - Cell 2
75Jérémy Roy (Fra) Française des JeuxRow 74 - Cell 2
76Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Caisse d'EpargneRow 75 - Cell 2
77Grégory Rast (Swi) Team RadioshackRow 76 - Cell 2
78Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - TransitionsRow 77 - Cell 2
79Mario Aerts (Bel) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 78 - Cell 2
80Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 79 - Cell 2
81Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team Saxo BankRow 80 - Cell 2
82Christophe Moreau (Fra) Caisse d'EpargneRow 81 - Cell 2
83Grischa Niermann (Ger) RabobankRow 82 - Cell 2
84Steven Cummings (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 83 - Cell 2
85Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des JeuxRow 84 - Cell 2
86Thomas Rohregger (Aut) Team MilramRow 85 - Cell 2
87Gorka Verdugo Marcotegui (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 86 - Cell 2
88Mathieu Perget (Fra) Caisse d'EpargneRow 87 - Cell 2
89Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Team KatushaRow 88 - Cell 2
90Rémi Pauriol (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en LigneRow 89 - Cell 2
91Koos Moerenhout (Ned) RabobankRow 90 - Cell 2
92Volodymir Gustov (Ukr) Cervelo Test TeamRow 91 - Cell 2
93Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 92 - Cell 2
94