Cavendish gets his win the hard way

The first week hasn't been a happy hunting ground for Mark Cavendish, but according to the Manxman he and his HTC-Highroad team fought a nervous Tour de France peloton and adversity created by the race organisers to win stage five of this year's race.

After what was a tough finishing kilometre in Cap Fréhel, Cavendish earned his 16th and arguably sweetest Tour stage win in tough circumstances – a peloton hell bent on destroying itself with crashes and a long finale that seemed to take an eternity – which came after four days that have hardly been memorable for the 26-year-old.

Cavendish attributed this last factor to the organisers planning the route of this year's Tour; he could hardly be accused of delivering the usual post-win clichés in his interview after the stage and lambasted them somewhat for the route of the opening four days.

"The organisers made it hard for us to have a bunch sprint in the first week of the Tour this year – that's because we dominated last year and they tried to make a handicap for us so we started on the back foot this year," said Cavendish.

Whilst many are accustomed to seeing the Manxman fire at the end of an HTC-Highroad train in the final kilometre, today Cavendish had to come from behind the first half-dozen sprinters and stake his claim at the head of the race, just when it mattered.

It was an impressive display and possibly a reflection of both self-belief in the face of his declared adversity and an increasing ability to adapt to the conditions of the day.

"The nine guys on our team did a tremendous job – it didn't look like the normal train we had but in the last 15k they kept the pace high and strung it out. If they didn't do that I would have been a kilometre behind at the finish," Cavendish said.

"That finish was hard – really hard. It was a proper hard finish," he gasped. "Coming into the last kilometre [former teammate, André] Greipel bashed into me...After the other day, what was I supposed to do?"

Nevertheless, Cavendish made the most of an opportunity to come around the outside of the leading sprinters and relegate Omega Pharma-Lotto's Philippe Gilbert – who appeared destined for another stage win – and Movistar jumper José Joaquin Rojas to second and third place respectively.

"You can see what sort of finish it was – Brad [Wiggins] was up there, G [Geraint Thomas] was too," Cavendish continued. "It was proper hard. My legs were going, going, going...I'm really happy. It's just good that we came out against adversity."

There was more extreme adversity for some, including defending champion Alberto Contador, as crashes marred what was a nervous and messy day. The likes of Janez Brajkovic (RadioShack) and Christophe Kern (Team Europcar) abandoned whilst Tom Boonen may also abandon before proceedings get underway tomorrow in Dinan.

Staying out of trouble and in the mix was Garmin-Cervélo's Thor Hushovd, who remains in yellow and must not be thinking of holding onto the jersey until the first decent mountain finish in Super Besse this Sancy this weekend.

There was a change to the green jersey classification after some questionable sprinting from the field for sixth place on the intermediate sprint point, Boonen and points leader Rojas were both disqualified for the bonus points. The seven points Rojas lost in that decision dropped him behind Gilbert in the green jersey competition, but the call was only made after the podium presentation had taken place.

Cirque du Soleil but no sunshine in Brittany

For the spirited four who got their day off to an invigorated start by jumping away, the breakaway was the safest place to be. Those men with a sixth sense for safety were Tristan Valentin of Cofidis, Europcar's Sébastien Turgot, José Ivan Gutierrez from Movistar and the youthful Anthony Delaplace of Saur-Sojasun.

With 120km left in the stage, the break had been retrieved to within five minutes of the peloton, although it was in no great rush to peg back the four out front.

With about 90km to go the circus started: two seemingly innocuous accidents affected three of the pre-race favourites; RadioShack's Janez Brajkovic was forced to withdraw whilst Alberto Contador felt the wrath of the gods again by crashing; another setback that saw him require a bike change and a swift ride back to the peloton. Rabobank rider Robert Gesink also came down and made it back to the relative safety of the group with the defending champ.

Meanwhile, away from the confusion and calamity, the leading quartet still had itself a lead in excess of 3:30. A further 10km down the road to Cap Fréhel that gap had been slashed by a minute as Danish champion Nicki Sörensen (Saxo Bank Sungard) added to Bjarne Riis's woes when he was brought down by a TV motorbike that came too close for comfort.

In the following three kilometres another minute was wiped from the lead enjoyed by the four up front – and the reason? Garmin-Cervélo driving the pace at the head of proceedings in an attempt to set up the second half of the stage for a sprint finish.

As Jonathan Vaughters's men seared the break's steak at the front of the peloton, amongst the cars, Brajkovic's teammate Yaroslav Popovych wasn't immune to the crash-fest taking place, the Ukrainian veteran sporting some road rash and undoubtedly some bruising for tomorrow's jaunt to Lisieux after taking a tumble.

Another man sporting some sore spots tomorrow will be Boonen, who came down with teammates Dries Devenyns and Gert Steegmans as the leaders clicked over 58km until the close of play. He limped back to the finish with Addy Engels for company but it's unlikely he'll take any further part in this year's Tour.

Setting it up early

Having knocked the gap between peloton and break down to 30 seconds, Garmin-Cervélo readjusted its strategy and took its collective foot off the gas to preserve energy before the finale – one that it hoped would favour Tyler Farrar. Consequently, the leading quartet shot back to a 1:38 lead and the catch would be saved for a later date in the day's proceedings.

That would happen with 45km remaining – still a long way from home – but surely there was a sting to come in the tale of the day. Europcar's Thomas Voeckler and FDJ rider Jeremy Roy decided they would provide that with an attack as the peloton approached 32km remaining in the stage.

Four kilometres later the duo had amassed a lead of 41 seconds, with BMC Racing, Leopard Trek and Liquigas-Cannondale patrolling the front of the peloton and as the main group hit 25 clicks until the finish the cross-tailwind kicked in to assist its pursuit of the plucky two men out front.

With 12.5km to go the gap had actually increased to 1:02, although with HTC-Highroad and Garmin-Cervélo on the front of the peloton that was sure to rapidly decrease as the impetus ran through the main group, reflected in the fact that the leading duo had 27 seconds as it passed the 10km-to-go banner – according to the time board, at least. On the road that looked a lot smaller.

After a stint on the front together of 29km Voeckler decided it was time to bid adieu to Roy and try his hand at a solo victory. A kilometre later he realised the dream was over and with just two clicks left in a bizarre stage, it was time to Allan Peiper's men to again demonstrate why they are regarded as the best in the sprint game.

With Tony Martin leading Matt Goss at the head of proceedings, the Australian swung off, creating a gap that was soon filled by Team Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen, as the Norwegian – and former Highroad rider – took a flier before the flamme rouge.

There was no fairytale however, as he too was swept up and deposited out the back of the sprint with teammate and best young rider Geraint Thomas in the thick of the action. Instead it was another Brit, Cavendish, making the running with 150 metres remaining to round the contenders and make it sweet 16.

Full Results (*revised after sprint DQ)

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad3:38:32
2Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 1 - Cell 2
3Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 2 - Cell 2
4Tony Gallopin (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En LigneRow 3 - Cell 2
5Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky ProcyclingRow 4 - Cell 2
6André Greipel (Ger) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 5 - Cell 2
7Sébastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 6 - Cell 2
8William Bonnet (Fra) FDJRow 7 - Cell 2
9Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 8 - Cell 2
10Thor Hushovd (Nor) Team Garmin-CerveloRow 9 - Cell 2
11Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing TeamRow 10 - Cell 2
12Andreas Klöden (Ger) Team RadioShackRow 11 - Cell 2
13Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJRow 12 - Cell 2
14Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Leopard TrekRow 13 - Cell 2
15Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 14 - Cell 2
16Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Pro Team AstanaRow 15 - Cell 2
17Rob Ruijgh (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 16 - Cell 2
18Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky ProcyclingRow 17 - Cell 2
19Anthony Roux (Fra) FDJRow 18 - Cell 2
20Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La MondialeRow 19 - Cell 2
21Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha TeamRow 20 - Cell 2
22Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 21 - Cell 2
23Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard TrekRow 22 - Cell 2
24Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quickstep Cycling TeamRow 23 - Cell 2
25Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 24 - Cell 2
26Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-HighroadRow 25 - Cell 2
27Björn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 26 - Cell 2
28Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Pro Team AstanaRow 27 - Cell 2
29Julien El Fares (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En LigneRow 28 - Cell 2
30Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky ProcyclingRow 29 - Cell 2
31George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 30 - Cell 2
32Kevin De Weert (Bel) Quickstep Cycling TeamRow 31 - Cell 2
33Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz) Pro Team AstanaRow 32 - Cell 2
34Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Katusha TeamRow 33 - Cell 2
35Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank SungardRow 34 - Cell 2
36Christopher Horner (USA) Team RadioShackRow 35 - Cell 2
37José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 36 - Cell 2
38Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISDRow 37 - Cell 2
39Jerome Coppel (Fra) Saur - SojasunRow 38 - Cell 2
40David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-CerveloRow 39 - Cell 2
41Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard TrekRow 40 - Cell 2
42Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling TeamRow 41 - Cell 2
43Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Le Credit En LigneRow 42 - Cell 2
44Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 43 - Cell 2
45Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Rabobank Cycling TeamRow 44 - Cell 2
46Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Team RadioShackRow 45 - Cell 2
47Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quickstep Cycling TeamRow 46 - Cell 2
48Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 47 - Cell 2
49Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard TrekRow 48 - Cell 2
50Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 49 - Cell 2
51Gorka Verdugo Marcotegui (Spa) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 50 - Cell 2
52Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Katusha TeamRow 51 - Cell 2
53Thomas Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-CerveloRow 52 - Cell 2
54Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 53 - Cell 2
55Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Team Garmin-CerveloRow 54 - Cell 2
56Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling TeamRow 55 - Cell 2
57Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky ProcyclingRow 56 - Cell 2
58Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-CerveloRow 57 - Cell 2
59Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team RadioShackRow 58 - Cell 2
60Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Rabobank Cycling TeamRow 59 - Cell 2
61Leonardo Fabio Duque (Col) Cofidis, Le Credit En LigneRow 60 - Cell 2
62Maxime Monfort (Bel) Leopard TrekRow 61 - Cell 2
63Egor Silin (Rus) Katusha TeamRow 62 - Cell 2
64Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Katusha TeamRow 63 - Cell 2
65Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar TeamRow 64 - Cell 2
66Romain Zingle (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit En LigneRow 65 - Cell 2
67Yuriy Trofimov (Rus) Katusha TeamRow 66 - Cell 2
68Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-HighroadRow 67 - Cell 2
69Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 68 - Cell 2
70Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 69 - Cell 2
71Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 70 - Cell 2
72Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Leopard TrekRow 71 - Cell 2
73Gianni Meersman (Bel) FDJRow 72 - Cell 2
74Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 73 - Cell 2
75Kristijan Koren (Slo) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 74 - Cell 2
76Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 75 - Cell 2
77Alan Perez Lezaun (Spa) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 76 - Cell 2
78Yannick Talabardon (Fra) Saur - SojasunRow 77 - Cell 2
79Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 78 - Cell 2
80Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Rabobank Cycling TeamRow 79 - Cell 2
81Pavel Brutt (Rus) Katusha TeamRow 80 - Cell 2
82Julian Dean (NZl) Team Garmin-CerveloRow 81 - Cell 2
83Brian Vandborg (Den) Saxo Bank SungardRow 82 - Cell 2
84Wout Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 83 - Cell 2
85Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) Team RadioShackRow 84 - Cell 2
86Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling TeamRow 85 - Cell 2
87Sandy Casar (Fra) FDJRow 86 - Cell 2
88Rémi Pauriol (Fra) FDJRow 87 - Cell 2
89Mickaël Delage (Fra) FDJRow 88 - Cell 2
90Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 89 - Cell 2
91Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 90 - Cell 2
92Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Pro Team AstanaRow 91 - Cell 2
93Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 92 - Cell 2
94Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Team RadioShackRow 93 - Cell 2
95Borut Bozic (Slo) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 94 - Cell 2
96Andrey Zeits (Kaz) Pro Team AstanaRow 95 - Cell 2
97Tyler Farrar (USA) Team Garmin-CerveloRow 96 - Cell 2
98Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 97 - Cell 2
99David Arroyo Duran (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 98 - Cell 2
100Anthony Charteau (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 99 - Cell 2
101Sebastian Lang (Ger) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 100 - Cell 2
102Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Lampre - ISDRow 101 - Cell 2
103Beñat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 102 - Cell 2
104Ben Swift (GBr) Sky ProcyclingRow 103 - Cell 2
105David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En LigneRow 104 - Cell 2
106Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJRow 105 - Cell 2
107Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quickstep Cycling TeamRow 106 - Cell 2
108Fabrice Jeandesboz (Fra) Saur - SojasunRow 107 - Cell 2
109Jérémie Galland (Fra) Saur - SojasunRow 108 - Cell 2
110Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto0:00:25
111Amets Txurruka (Spa) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 110 - Cell 2
112Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 111 - Cell 2
113Grischa Niermann (Ger) Rabobank Cycling TeamRow 112 - Cell 2
114Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre - ISD0:00:32
115Arnaud Coyot (Fra) Saur - SojasunRow 114 - Cell 2
116Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) HTC-Highroad0:00:33
117Rémy Di Gregorio (Fra) Pro Team AstanaRow 116 - Cell 2
118Maciej Paterski (Pol) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 117 - Cell 2
119Simon Gerrans (Aus) Sky ProcyclingRow 118 - Cell 2
120Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra) Saur - Sojasun0:00:36
121Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 120 - Cell 2
122Benjamin Noval Gonzalez (Spa) Saxo Bank SungardRow 121 - Cell 2
123Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Saxo Bank SungardRow 122 - Cell 2
124Adriano Malori (Ita) Lampre - ISDRow 123 - Cell 2
125Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 124 - Cell 2
126David Loosli (Swi) Lampre - ISDRow 125 - Cell 2
127Denys Kostyuk (Ukr) Lampre - ISDRow 126 - Cell 2
128Danilo Hondo (Ger) Lampre - ISD0:00:56
129Mickaël Buffaz (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne0:01:00
130Frederik Willems (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto0:01:35
131Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 130 - Cell 2
132Alessandro Vanotti (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale0:01:42
133Perrig Quemeneur (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 132 - Cell 2
134Christian Knees (Ger) Sky ProcyclingRow 133 - Cell 2
135Mikhail Ignatyev (Rus) Katusha TeamRow 134 - Cell 2
136Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team0:01:45
137Joost Posthuma (Ned) Leopard TrekRow 136 - Cell 2
138Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 137 - Cell 2
139Ivan Santaromita (Ita) BMC Racing TeamRow 138 - Cell 2
140Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 139 - Cell 2
141Sébastien Minard (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 140 - Cell 2
142Amaël Moinard (Fra) BMC Racing TeamRow 141 - Cell 2
143Richie Porte (Aus) Saxo Bank SungardRow 142 - Cell 2
144Yohann Gene (Fra) Team Europcar0:01:49
145Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Saur - SojasunRow 144 - Cell 2
146Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Leopard TrekRow 145 - Cell 2
147Pablo Urtasun Perez (Spa) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 146 - Cell 2
148Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 147 - Cell 2
149Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Rabobank Cycling TeamRow 148 - Cell 2
150Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale0:01:57
151Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Sky ProcyclingRow 150 - Cell 2
152Jérémy Roy (Fra) FDJ0:02:05
153Mark Renshaw (Aus) HTC-Highroad0:02:25
154Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Pro Team Astana0:02:30
155Xabier Zandio Echaide (Spa) Sky Procycling0:02:34
156Tejay Van Garderen (USA) HTC-Highroad0:02:46
157Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing TeamRow 156 - Cell 2
158Bernhard Eisel (Aut) HTC-HighroadRow 157 - Cell 2
159Lars Ytting Bak (Den) HTC-HighroadRow 158 - Cell 2
160Jens Voigt (Ger) Leopard TrekRow 159 - Cell 2
161Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Saxo Bank SungardRow 160 - Cell 2
162Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank Cycling TeamRow 161 - Cell 2
163Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Pro Team AstanaRow 162 - Cell 2
164Matteo Bono (Ita) Lampre - ISDRow 163 - Cell 2
165Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Saxo Bank SungardRow 164 - Cell 2
166Grega Bole (Slo) Lampre - ISDRow 165 - Cell 2
167Tristan Valentin (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En LigneRow 166 - Cell 2
168Francisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 167 - Cell 2
169Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Pro Team AstanaRow 168 - Cell 2
170David Zabriskie (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo0:04:29
171Danny Pate (USA) HTC-HighroadRow 170 - Cell 2
172Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 171 - Cell 2
173Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Team Garmin-CerveloRow 172 - Cell 2
174Jesús H