Mark Cavendish reasserted his dominance in the bunch sprints of the Tour de France, winning in Lavaur by a half a bike length and claiming the green jersey. He beat none other than arch-rival Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto), who pipped him at the line the previous day. Third went to this Tour's other sprint winner, Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Cervelo.
It was the 18th career Tour de France stage victory for the HTC-Highroad sprinter, and his third of this year's Tour.
All of the favourites crossed the line together in a group, causing no changes in the GC. Thomas Voeckler of Europcar easily held on to his yellow jersey for one more day, with Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) lurking behind him in second and third as the mountains approach.
Voeckler enjoyed what he knew would probably be his last day in yellow. "To be honest, I expect to lose the jersey tomorrow, but that doesn't mean I won't fight. I will try, but we'll see."
Defending the yellow jersey has been difficult on the Europcar team, which is down to eight men after Christoph Kern abandoned with tendinitis on stage 5.
"We have three riders who are in their first Tour de France, and we lost Kern at the start. He was very important for us, especially in the mountains. I still have Charteau, Rolland and Gautier for the climbs, but we really miss Kern."
HTC-Highroad led the high-speed chase in the pouring rain much of the stage, but still managed to have enough left over to set up a sprint even with losing Matt Goss, who is suffering from stomach problems, before the final lead-out.
It was HTC versus Garmin-Cervélo coming into the final 300 meters, but it was Geraint Thomas of Sky who opened the sprint in an attempt to set up Edvald Boasson Hagen for his second stage victory. But once Mark Renshaw took over with Cavendish on his wheel, it was game over for his competition. Cavendish went early, but easily held on to his lead against the charging Greipel, who was looking to pull off another upset win but had to come from sixth wheel to do so.
"When the guys ride like they did yesterday and then I don't finish the job it's hard to take. But then I go out and make sure I win," he said immediately after watching the television replay of his sprint.
"The guys were phenomenal today. There were six super strong guys up there but we rode with just two all day: Lars Bak and Danny Pate. We had to put Tejay (Van Garderen), Peter Velits and Bernie Eisel up there. We've got Martin and Velits going for GC but they worked for me."
Cavendish said he didn't know he had Greipel bearing down on him in the final 50 meters.
"I just went. I said I'd kick and when I kick I normally get a gap. I made the mistake of not hitting it hard yesterday. My danger is my acceleration and if I do that, I get a gap and can hold it.
Farrar had hoped for another win today but had to settle for third after running out of steam before the line. "With the downpour we had to race in it was really crazy. We just misjudged it a little bit and came up 100m short on the lead-out. The legs were there, it definitely felt fast. There are a few more opportunities [for a stage win]."
With just two climbs on the stage and only a total of three points maximum available, the hero of the Tour de France, Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM) was able to hold onto his polka dot jersey for another day. He and fellow crash victim Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) finished at the back of the main group, still bandaged up like mummies.
Going for green
The victory also allowed Cavendish to once again pull on the green jersey, one of his goals for the Tour de France this year. He came into the stage in third place in the points classification, with 197 points to 209 for Jose Joaquin Rojas and leader Philippe Gilbert's 226 points.
However, Cavendish won the sprint from the peloton at the intermediate sprint, taking nine points, against eight for Rojas and only five for Gilbert. That set him up to take over the lead in the finale, as Gilbert was not expected to mix in the sprint.
That was how it worked out. Cavendish galloped to the finish line first, taking the 45 points for first place, with Rojas claiming only 18 back in seventh place. Gilbert finished out of the points in 66th place.
Cavendish thus claimed the points lead and the green jersey with a total of 251 points, ahead of Rojas at 235 and Gilbert at 231. Greipel lurks in fourth place with 164 points.
Wet wet wet
It was another rainy day in southern France, as one rider failed to appear at the start. John Gadret of AG2R gave his reason as fatigue.
As expected, an escape group formed and got away early. Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Lars Boom (Rabobank), Andriy Grivko (Astana), Mickael Delage (FDJ), Tristan Valentin (Cofidis) and Jimmy Engoulvent (Saur-Sojasun) escaped about 15km into the stage. They quickly built up enough of a lead to scare the sprinters's teams.
HTC-Highroad moved in to share the lead work with Europcar as the gap went above four minutes, and they combined to keep it around the 4:20 mark, eventually bringing it down to 3:30.
The only drama in the early and middle part of the stage came at the intermediate sprint. Mark Cavendish of HTC-Highroad slyly got on the wheel of yesterday's stage winner, Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto). The Manxman took the honours this go-round, slipping out to take the points ahead of Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar). The top points went to the six in the lead group, but Cavendish still picked up nine points. Gilbert got only five points, as he was gapped and unable to keep up with the top sprinters.
That moved Cavendish up to 206 points, only 25 behind Gilbert and put the green jersey within his reach with a win or good finish at the stage end.
More and more teams moved into share the lead work and HTC-Highroad pulled itself back as the gap came down and the finish line came closer. It also gave the GC teams the opportunity to protect their captains on the wet roads and cross winds on the descent of the day's second and final climb, the category four Cote de Puylaure.
Once that was successfully negotiated, the sprinters' teams moved back into their working position, pulling the field along through the rather ghostly woods on an exceptionally grey day.
The closer the finish came, the worse the weather got. Pouring down rain promised a potentially dangerous sprint. It took seemingly forever for HTC to pull the peloton to the escape group.
Boom attacked as the peloton neared the group with four kilometers to go, but he was merely postponing the inevitable as the others were gathered in one kilometer later, and he too was soon caught, swept away in the pouring rain.
Garmin-Cervelo took over the lead work with two kilometers to go and led the way under the flamme rouge. Sky took over the lead, but Cavendish jumped early. Greipel gave furious chase but was unable to catch the Manxman this time.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad||3:46:07|
|2||André Greipel (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto||Row 1 - Cell 2|
|3||Tyler Farrar (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo||Row 2 - Cell 2|
|4||Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha Team||Row 3 - Cell 2|
|5||Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|6||Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|7||Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 6 - Cell 2|
|8||Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Team Europcar||Row 7 - Cell 2|
|9||Francisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 8 - Cell 2|
|10||William Bonnet (Fra) FDJ||Row 9 - Cell 2|
|11||Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ||Row 10 - Cell 2|
|12||Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Quickstep Cycling Team||Row 11 - Cell 2|
|13||Anthony Delaplace (Fra) Saur - Sojasun||Row 12 - Cell 2|
|14||Sébastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 13 - Cell 2|
|15||Gianni Meersman (Bel) FDJ||Row 14 - Cell 2|
|16||Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto||Row 15 - Cell 2|
|17||Pablo Urtasun Perez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||Row 16 - Cell 2|
|18||Mark Renshaw (Aus) HTC-Highroad||Row 17 - Cell 2|
|19||Rob Ruijgh (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||Row 18 - Cell 2|
|20||Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Pro Team Astana||Row 19 - Cell 2|
|21||Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne||Row 20 - Cell 2|
|22||Kevin De Weert (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team||Row 21 - Cell 2|
|23||Borut Bozic (Slo) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||Row 22 - Cell 2|
|24||Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Procycling||Row 23 - Cell 2|
|25||Arnaud Coyot (Fra) Saur - Sojasun||Row 24 - Cell 2|
|26||Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Leopard Trek||Row 25 - Cell 2|
|27||Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||Row 26 - Cell 2|
|28||Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre - ISD||Row 27 - Cell 2|
|29||Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek||Row 28 - Cell 2|
|30||Sebastian Lang (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto||Row 29 - Cell 2|
|31||Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto||Row 30 - Cell 2|
|32||Leonardo Fabio Duque (Col) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne||Row 31 - Cell 2|
|33||Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD||Row 32 - Cell 2|
|34||Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Katusha Team||Row 33 - Cell 2|
|35||Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo||Row 34 - Cell 2|
|36||Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Highroad||Row 35 - Cell 2|
|37||Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne||Row 36 - Cell 2|
|38||Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||Row 37 - Cell 2|
|39||Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-Highroad||Row 38 - Cell 2|
|40||Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Leopard Trek||Row 39 - Cell 2|
|41||Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team||Row 40 - Cell 2|
|42||Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 41 - Cell 2|
|43||Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quickstep Cycling Team||Row 42 - Cell 2|
|44||Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team||Row 43 - Cell 2|
|45||Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 44 - Cell 2|
|46||Thor Hushovd (Nor) Team Garmin-Cervelo||Row 45 - Cell 2|
|47||Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard||Row 46 - Cell 2|
|48||Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Saxo Bank Sungard||Row 47 - Cell 2|
|49||Thomas Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo||Row 48 - Cell 2|
|50||Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team||Row 49 - Cell 2|
|51||Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto||Row 50 - Cell 2|
|52||Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||Row 51 - Cell 2|
|53||Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quickstep Cycling Team||Row 52 - Cell 2|
|54||Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||Row 53 - Cell 2|
|55||George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing Team||Row 54 - Cell 2|
|56||Xabier Zandio Echaide (Spa) Sky Procycling||Row 55 - Cell 2|
|57||Nicki Sörensen (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard||Row 56 - Cell 2|
|58||Jerome Coppel (Fra) Saur - Sojasun||Row 57 - Cell 2|
|59||José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 58 - Cell 2|
|60||Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team||Row 59 - Cell 2|
|61||Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard Trek||Row 60 - Cell 2|
|62||Julien El Fares (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne||Row 61 - Cell 2|
|63||Maxime Monfort (Bel) Leopard Trek||Row 62 - Cell 2|
|64||Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||Row 63 - Cell 2|
|65||Yannick Talabardon (Fra) Saur - Sojasun||Row 64 - Cell 2|
|66||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto||Row 65 - Cell 2|
|67||Tony Gallopin (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne||Row 66 - Cell 2|
|68||Julian Dean (NZl) Team Garmin-Cervelo||Row 67 - Cell 2|
|69||Gorka Verdugo Marcotegui (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||Row 68 - Cell 2|
|70||Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||Row 69 - Cell 2|
|71||Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar||Row 70 - Cell 2|
|72||Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Team RadioShack||Row 71 - Cell 2|
|73||Maciej Paterski (Pol) Liquigas-Cannondale||Row 72 - Cell 2|
|74||Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Katusha Team||Row 73 - Cell 2|
|75||Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar||Row 74 - Cell 2|
|76||Vincent Jerome (Fra) Team Europcar||Row 75 - Cell 2|
|77||Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Leopard Trek||Row 76 - Cell 2|
|78||Grischa Niermann (Ger) Rabobank Cycling Team||Row 77 - Cell 2|
|79||Adriano Malori (Ita) Lampre - ISD||Row 78 - Cell 2|
|80||Jens Voigt (Ger) Leopard Trek||Row 79 - Cell 2|
|81||Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||Row 80 - Cell 2|
|82||Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek||Row 81 - Cell 2|
|83||Jérémy Roy (Fra) FDJ||Row 82 - Cell 2|
|84||Kristijan Koren (Slo) Liquigas-Cannondale||Row 83 - Cell 2|
|85||Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team||Row 84 - Cell 2|
|86||Andreas Klöden (Ger) Team RadioShack||Row 85 - Cell 2|
|87||Romain Zingle (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne||Row 86 - Cell 2|
|88||Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling||Row 87 - Cell 2|
|89||Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 88 - Cell 2|
|90||Richie Porte (Aus) Saxo Bank Sungard||Row 89 - Cell 2|
|91||Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team||Row 90 - Cell 2|
|92||Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team||Row 91 - Cell 2|
|93||Andrey Zeits (Kaz) Pro Team Astana||Row 92 - Cell 2|
|94||Björn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||Row 93 - Cell 2|
|95||Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team||Row 94 - Cell 2|
|96||Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team RadioShack||Row 95 - Cell 2|
|97||Mickaël Buffaz (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne||Row 96 - Cell 2|
|98||Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) Team RadioShack||Row 97 - Cell 2|
|99||Alessandro Vanotti (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||Row 98 - Cell 2|
|100||Sergio Miguel Moreira Paulinho (Por) Team RadioShack||Row 99 - Cell 2|
|101||Christian Knees (Ger) Sky Procycling||Row 100 - Cell 2|
|102||Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 101 - Cell 2|
|103||Benjamin Noval Gonzalez (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard||Row 102 - Cell 2|
|104||Sandy Casar (Fra) FDJ||Row 103 - Cell 2|
|105||Simon Gerrans (Aus) Sky Procycling||Row 104 - Cell 2|
|106||Amaël Moinard (Fra) BMC Racing Team||Row 105 - Cell 2|
|107||David Arroyo Duran (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 106 - Cell 2|
|108||Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz) Pro Team Astana||Row 107 - Cell 2|
|109||Alan Perez Lezaun (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||Row 108 - Cell 2|
|110||Rémy Di Gregorio (Fra) Pro Team Astana||Row 109 - Cell 2|
|111||Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar Team||Row 110 - Cell 2|
|112||Egor Silin (Rus) Katusha Team||Row 111 - Cell 2|
|113||Ben Swift (GBr) Sky Procycling||Row 112 - Cell 2|
|114||Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 113 - Cell 2|
|115||Tristan Valentin (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne||Row 114 - Cell 2|
|116||Mickaël Delage (Fra) FDJ||Row 115 - Cell 2|
|117||David Loosli (Swi) Lampre - ISD||Row 116 - Cell 2|
|118||Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quickstep Cycling Team||Row 117 - Cell 2|
|119||Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||Row 118 - Cell 2|
|120||Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Liquigas-Cannondale||Row 119 - Cell 2|
|121||Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing Team||Row 120 - Cell 2|
|122||Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Team Garmin-Cervelo||Row 121 - Cell 2|
|123||Joost Posthuma (Ned) Leopard Trek||Row 122 - Cell 2|
|124||Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team||Row 123 - Cell 2|
|125||Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Lampre - ISD||Row 124 - Cell 2|
|126||David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-Cervelo||Row 125 - Cell 2|
|127||Jérémie Galland (Fra) Saur - Sojasun||Row 126 - Cell 2|