Cavendish vindicated in Montargis!

The riders at HTC-Columbia often say that each victory they take belongs to the team and no better was this demonstrated than on Thursday's stage to Montargis. After the disappointment of Wednesday's sprint into Reims, Mark Cavendish took advantage of the perfect work done by his teammates to open his stage win account in this year's Tour.

The Manxman's celebrations said it all as he crossed the line after four and a half hours of racing: arms raised high, full of relief, sweet celebration and redemption. More than usual, Cavendish savoured the embraces of HTC-Columbia staff and Erik Zabel, the six-time green jersey winner and his close advisor. And Cav hugged them all before walking back to the finish with a proud swagger that said: 'I'm back'.

Despite the best efforts of rival teams to derail the HTC-Columbia train in the final kilometres in the Montargis suburbs, the likes of Thor Hushovd, Alessandro Petacchi, Tyler Farrar, Gerald Ciolek and Robbie McEwen couldn't get the better of Renshaw and Cavendish when it counted.

Renshaw elbowed Thor Hushovd out of the way and then dragged Cavendish clear as the finish line loomed. Cavendish did not hesitate as the sprint began and surged clear. This time, he had the power and speed to win. Germany's Gerald Ciolek (Milram) jumped at the same time as Cavendish but was beaten for speed and finished second. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) came from behind Cavendish to take third.

Tears on the podium, reminiscent of his win at last year's Milan-San Remo, were a sure sign of Cavendish hitting the release valve on a pressure cooker that had been building up inside him and HTC-Columbia for months. During the Tour's opening week, a number of factors - crashes, cobbles and circumstances, had conspired against the 24-year-old. But suddenly, all that was forgotten with a convincing return to victory.

"It means everything to win," Cavendish said. "It's incredibly emotional. All the pressure and emotion built up but it's finally over."

"It was hard this year. I always said everything was about the Tour de France. Thing didn't go our way yesterday. I let them down massively and it would have been easy for them to say 'He hasn't got it' like other people did. But they rode for me. Siutsou rode covered in bandages and Rogers was there at the finish and took it on too. Renshaw did an incredible job, fighting with Thor [Hushovd], with Tyler [Farrar] and with Oscar [Freire]. I knew he'd drop me off at the right place."

Thanks to his fifth place, Thor Hushovd maintained his lead in the points classification, while Fabian Cancellara will enjoy another day in the maillot jaune as Jerôme Pineau carries on in the polka dot jersey when the race heads to Gueugnon tomorrow. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) kept the best young rider's white jersey, giving Britain an historic day, with two riders on the podium.

Cavendish is also back in the hunt for the points classification crown, lighting up the battle for the maillot vert when others had written him off. Hushovd is still in green with a total of 102 points but Cavendish has 50 points. And it's always a mistake to write off men of his calibre, as Hushovd knows.

"He's one of the best sprinters in the world. I'm happy with today's stage. I was able to get some more points in the hunt for the maillot vert," Hushovd said. "I was in good position for the final sprint. I used a lot of energy to get on the wheel of Renshaw, and Cavendish was able to win. It's always better to win the stage. I am not racing just for points, I want to win the stages too."

Play it again, Sam

Another sunny day, another favourable parcour, meant the conditions were ripe for another bunch sprint. But this time HTC-Columbia was hoping that Cavendish would finish the job done by Konstantin Siutsou, Maxime Monfort, Tony Martin, Bert Grabsch, Michael Rogers, Bernhard Eisel and Mark Renshaw, who all played such an important role in getting him to the final 200 metres the day before.

But before the finish could be contested - another break was allowed to steal the early glory. The escape group was again let go nice and early. Caisse d'Epargne's José Ivan Gutierrez kicked off proceedings, attacking hard and taking off after six kilometres. With Jurgen van de Walle (Quick Step) and Julian El Fares (Cofidis) in tow, the Spaniard set about accumulating a significant gap which became a minute after seven kilometres of riding off the front.

With 28km of the stage passed, the break gained its maximum advantage of 7:55 as the peloton continued to lick its wounds after that bruising stage three encounter with the cobbles of northern France. However the next 20km saw that gap hover around six minutes until it began to fall with just over 100km left to race. The sprinters were not going to let the break gain too much time.

The likes of Grabsch, Siutsou and Monfort were again pivotal in whittling the break's advantage; when it was down to a manageable 2:27 with 65km remaining, Lampre-Farnese Vini decided to get involved, with Slovenian rider Grega Bole again proving his worth to the Italian team's cause, towing the bunch in pursuit of the leading trio.

As the time board showed the peloton was 1:47 from the break with 40km to go, Cervélo TestTeam also began to get involved in the task of pulling back the Belgian-Franco-Iberian alliance that had worked well to maintain its position off the front of the bunch.

But like yesterday's romp into Reims, it all became mathematical in the finale as the break was again caught late in the stage; with 10km remaining it was time for Tony Martin to kick things back into action for HTC-Columbia, the erstwhile leader of the best young rider classification dragging the main bunch to within sight of the escape group.

Time's up, José

With six kilometres remaining, Gutierrez decided it was time to split from his breakaway companions, who were caught shortly after, while the Spaniard continued to hold out against the inevitable. Whilst a spirited effort, the Spanish national road race champion's attempt to stay away ended two kilometres later as the peloton had four clicks to go before the expected bunch kick. The question on everyone's lips was: Could Cav make a comeback to the winners' circle or would he fail again and the pressure grow even more?

Gutierrez's demise was the cue for Lampre-Farnese Vini and Garmin-Slipstream to come to the front, Martijn Maaskant going head to head with Danilo Hondo for position in the midst of the HTC-Columbia train in an attempt to steal its momentum, the result being Bernhard Eisel's isolation at the head of affairs.

David Millar, Robbie Hunter and Julian Dean then organised themselves brilliantly for Farrar. Behind them sat Hushovd, Renshaw and Cavendish, with all eyes on the latter two. Waiting in the wings for any mistakes and for a gap to dive through, was yesterday's winner Petacchi, plus Gerald Ciolek and Edvald Boasson Hagen.

Unlike yesterday however, when Mark Renshaw swung off with 200 metres to go Cavendish kicked... and kicked hard. The HTC-Columbia sprinter was back to his best, finding victory vindication during a week that has tested the character of the rider who had so dominated the sprints during last year's Tour de France.

The question now becomes: will he have enough of that same character and speed to continue winning and eventually take the green jersey at race's end in Paris? Stay tuned for that intriguing plotline of what has already been a fascinating Tour de France after just six days of racing.

Full Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team HTC - Columbia4:30:50
2Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team MilramRow 1 - Cell 2
3Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 2 - Cell 2
4Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d'EpargneRow 3 - Cell 2
5Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test TeamRow 4 - Cell 2
6Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Bbox Bouygues TelecomRow 5 - Cell 2
7Robbie McEwen (Aus) Team KatushaRow 6 - Cell 2
8Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese ViniRow 7 - Cell 2
9Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 8 - Cell 2
10Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - TransitionsRow 9 - Cell 2
11Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en LigneRow 10 - Cell 2
12Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-DoimoRow 11 - Cell 2
13Danilo Hondo (Ger) Lampre-Farnese ViniRow 12 - Cell 2
14Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La MondialeRow 13 - Cell 2
15Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Bbox Bouygues TelecomRow 14 - Cell 2
16Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 15 - Cell 2
17Andriy Grivko (Ukr) AstanaRow 16 - Cell 2
18Christopher Horner (USA) Team RadioshackRow 17 - Cell 2
19Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) AstanaRow 18 - Cell 2
20Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 19 - Cell 2
21Mark Renshaw (Aus) Team HTC - ColumbiaRow 20 - Cell 2
22Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing TeamRow 21 - Cell 2
23Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 22 - Cell 2
24Christian Knees (Ger) Team MilramRow 23 - Cell 2
25George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 24 - Cell 2
26Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) RabobankRow 25 - Cell 2
27Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 26 - Cell 2
28Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Quick StepRow 27 - Cell 2
29Inaki Isasi Flores (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 28 - Cell 2
30Lance Armstrong (USA) Team RadioshackRow 29 - Cell 2
31Benjamin Noval Gonzalez (Spa) AstanaRow 30 - Cell 2
32Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo BankRow 31 - Cell 2
33Julian Dean (NZl) Garmin - TransitionsRow 32 - Cell 2
34Sebastian Lang (Ger) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 33 - Cell 2
35Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Team RadioshackRow 34 - Cell 2
36Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team RadioshackRow 35 - Cell 2
37Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo BankRow 36 - Cell 2
38Andreas Klöden (Ger) Team RadioshackRow 37 - Cell 2
39Kevin De Weert (Bel) Quick StepRow 38 - Cell 2
40Serge Pauwels (Bel) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 39 - Cell 2
41Matti Breschel (Den) Team Saxo BankRow 40 - Cell 2
42Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Team RadioshackRow 41 - Cell 2
43Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Caisse d'EpargneRow 42 - Cell 2
44Luis León Sánchez Gil (Spa) Caisse d'EpargneRow 43 - Cell 2
45Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 44 - Cell 2
46Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Garmin - TransitionsRow 45 - Cell 2
47Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-DoimoRow 46 - Cell 2
48Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Team MilramRow 47 - Cell 2
49Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 48 - Cell 2
50Michael Rogers (Aus) Team HTC - ColumbiaRow 49 - Cell 2
51Pierre Rolland (Fra) Bbox Bouygues TelecomRow 50 - Cell 2
52Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Team MilramRow 51 - Cell 2
53Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 52 - Cell 2
54Thomas Löfkvist (Swe) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 53 - Cell 2
55Matthieu Sprick (Fra) Bbox Bouygues TelecomRow 54 - Cell 2
56Michael Barry (Can) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 55 - Cell 2
57Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) Française des JeuxRow 56 - Cell 2
58Julien El Farès (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en LigneRow 57 - Cell 2
59Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team MilramRow 58 - Cell 2
60Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese ViniRow 59 - Cell 2
61Martin Elmiger (Swi) AG2R La MondialeRow 60 - Cell 2
62Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-DoimoRow 61 - Cell 2
63Tony Martin (Ger) Team HTC - ColumbiaRow 62 - Cell 2
64Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 63 - Cell 2
65Alexander Vinokourov (Kaz) AstanaRow 64 - Cell 2
66Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Team Saxo BankRow 65 - Cell 2
67Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Team KatushaRow 66 - Cell 2
68Grischa Niermann (Ger) RabobankRow 67 - Cell 2
69Denis Menchov (Rus) RabobankRow 68 - Cell 2
70Grégory Rast (Swi) Team RadioshackRow 69 - Cell 2
71Bram Tankink (Ned) RabobankRow 70 - Cell 2
72Robert Gesink (Ned) RabobankRow 71 - Cell 2
73Thomas Rohregger (Aut) Team MilramRow 72 - Cell 2
74Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française des JeuxRow 73 - Cell 2
75Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des JeuxRow 74 - Cell 2
76Juan Manuel Gárate Cepa (Spa) RabobankRow 75 - Cell 2
77Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 76 - Cell 2
78Damien Monier (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en LigneRow 77 - Cell 2
79Brett Lancaster (Aus) Cervelo Test TeamRow 78 - Cell 2
80Jérémy Roy (Fra) Française des JeuxRow 79 - Cell 2
81Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) RabobankRow 80 - Cell 2
82Mauro Da Dalto (Ita) Lampre-Farnese ViniRow 81 - Cell 2
83Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team KatushaRow 82 - Cell 2
84Christophe Moreau (Fra) Caisse d'EpargneRow 83 - Cell 2
85Rémi Pauriol (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en LigneRow 84 - Cell 2
86Simon Gerrans (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 85 - Cell 2
87Roger Kluge (Ger) Team MilramRow 86 - Cell 2
88Alexandr Pliuschin (Mda) Team KatushaRow 87 - Cell 2
89Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Team KatushaRow 88 - Cell 2
90Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - TransitionsRow 89 - Cell 2
91David Millar (GBr) Garmin - TransitionsRow 90 - Cell 2
92Luke Roberts (Aus) Team MilramRow 91 - Cell 2
93Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Team HTC - ColumbiaRow 92 - Cell 2
94Sébastien Minard (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en LigneRow 93 - Cell 2
95Volodymir Gustov (Ukr) Cervelo Test TeamRow 94 - Cell 2
96Sergio Paulinho (Por) Team RadioshackRow 95 - Cell 2
97Iban Velasco Murillo (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 96 - Cell 2
98Arkaitz Duran Daroca (Spa) Footon-ServettoRow 97 - Cell 2
99Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) Française des JeuxRow 98 - Cell 2
100Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick StepRow 99 - Cell 2
101Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test TeamRow 100 - Cell 2
102Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Team KatushaRow 101 - Cell 2
103Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese ViniRow 102 - Cell 2
104Cyril Gautier (Fra) Bbox Bouygues TelecomRow 103 - Cell 2
105Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Caisse d'EpargneRow 104 - Cell 2
106Koos Moerenhout (Ned) RabobankRow 105 - Cell 2
107John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 106 - Cell 2
108Rémy Di Grégorio (Fra) Française des JeuxRow 107 - Cell 2
109José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d'EpargneRow 108 - Cell 2
110Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Team KatushaRow 109 - Cell 2
111Fabio Felline (Ita) Footon-ServettoRow 110 - Cell 2
112Gorka Verdugo Marcotegui (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 111 - Cell 2
113Kristjan Koren (Slo) Liquigas-DoimoRow 112 - Cell 2
114Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bbox Bouygues TelecomRow 113 - Cell 2
115Rui Alberto Faria da Costa (Por) Caisse d'EpargneRow 114 - Cell 2
116Mario Aerts (Bel) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 115 - Cell 2
117Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) Bbox Bouygues TelecomRow 116 - Cell 2
118Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Caisse d'EpargneRow 117 - Cell 2
119Maxime Monfort (Bel) Team HTC - ColumbiaRow 118 - Cell 2
120Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas-DoimoRow 119 - Cell 2
121Anthony Geslin (Fra) Française des JeuxRow 120 - Cell 2
122Jose Alberto Benitez Roman (Spa) Footon-ServettoRow 121 - Cell 2
123Rafael Valls Ferri (Spa) Footon-ServettoRow 122 - Cell 2
124Pavel Brutt (Rus) Team KatushaRow 123 - Cell 2
125Christophe Kern (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en LigneRow 124 - Cell 2
126Aitor Perez Arrieta (Spa) Footon-ServettoRow 125 - Cell 2
127Anthony Charteau (Fra) Bbox Bouygues TelecomRow 126 - Cell 2
128Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) AstanaRow 127 - Cell 2
129Alexander Kuschynski (Blr) Liquigas-DoimoRow 128 - Cell 2
130Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 129 - Cell 2
131Benoït Vaugrenard (Fra) Française des JeuxRow 130 - Cell 2
132Amaël Moinard (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en LigneRow 131 - Cell 2
133Nicolas Vogondy (Fra) Bbox Bouygues TelecomRow 132 - Cell 2
134Mathieu Perget (Fra) Caisse d'EpargneRow 133 - Cell 2
135Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Team KatushaRow 134 - Cell 2
136Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing TeamRow 135 - Cell 2
137Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing TeamRow 136 - Cell 2
138Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) BMC Racing TeamRow 137 - Cell 2
139Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 138 - Cell 2
140Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick StepRow 139 - Cell 2
141Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Le Credit en LigneRow 140 - Cell 2
142Francesco Bellotti (Ita) Liquigas-DoimoRow 141 - Cell 2
143Robert Hunter (RSA) Garmin - Transitions