Mark Cavendish moved into the green jersey for the first time in the Tour de France since the 2009 race after picking up his third stage victory of this year’s edition in Lavaur this afternoon.
Cav started the day off in third place in the standings, but having taken nine points in the intermediate sprint he then added another 45 to his tally after picking up his 18th Tour stage victory.
Yesterday’s winner Andre Greipel beat Tyler Farrar into second, with Cav’s green jersey rivals Jose Rojas finishing in seventh, while overnight leader Philippe Gilbert did not contest the sprint finish.
Speaking afterwards, Cav said: “I just went. I said I’d kick and when I kick normally I get a gap. Acceleration is the strongest part of my sprint…. I hit, and I got the gap.”
The Brit last wore the green jersey on stage 12 of the 2009 Tour, before losing it to Thor Hushovd, who kept it to the end of the race.
Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) remains in the yellow jersey, although he is expected to lose that tomorrow on the way to Luz-Ardiden.
A crash free and quiet day
The peloton was reduced to 177 riders this morning after John Gadret (Ag2r-La Mondiale) failed to take the start in Blaye-les-Mines, citing fatigue from the Giro d’Italia, in which he finished fourth overall.
A six-man breakaway – consisting of Ruben Perez (Euskaltel), Lars Boom (Rabobank), Andriy Grivko (Astana), Mickael Delage (FDJ), Tristan Valentin (Cofidis) and Jimmy Engoulvent (Saur-Sojasun) – escaped early on in the stage, although like yesterday’s breakaway, the peloton wanted to keep control of affairs and never let their advantage balloon out of control.
Delage took the maximum points on offer at the sprint in Gaillac, but notably Cavendish beat Rojas, Greipel and Gilbert to win the bunch gallop for seventh, thus adding nine points to his tally.
This meant that, provided Cav won the stage, he could take the green jersey if Rojas finished third or lower, and Gilbert couldn’t place in the top seven at the finish.
Not even the rain can stop Cav
Their escapees’ advantage came down as slowly as it went up, and their chances of staying away were bolstered by a downpour that struck within the final 30km.
Despite the heavy rain, which continued after the finish, no crashes were reported throughout the stage.
Responding to the inclement weather, initially the pace in the peloton decreased, and going into the final 10km the six leaders, who continued to work cohesively, had a gap of over a minute.
The bunch failed to make any inroads into their lead between the 8 and 7km to go mark, although the break were hovering at 14s with 5km remaining.
At that point, Boom – one of the strongest time trialists in the race – attacked, and none of his breakaway companions were able to follow his explosive move.
The remnants of the group were reeled in with 3km to go, before Boom was caught with 2km remaining.
However, the hard work in bringing the race back together had meant Cavendish only had loyal servant Mark Renshaw for support.
Luckily, HTC-Highroad were able to benefit from the work done by Garmin-Cervélo, who were trying to set Farrar up for his second stage win in the Tour.
Cavendish clipped Romain Feillu on the run-in, forcing the Brit to adjust his shoes, but ultimately once the race for the line began, nothing was going to stop Cavendish.
Tour de France 2011, stage 11 – Blaye les Mines-Lavaur, 167.5km
1. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Highroad in 3-46-07
2. Andre Greipel (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto
3. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Cervelo
4. Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky
6. Romain Fellu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM
7. Jose Rojas (Spa) Movistar
8. Sebastien Turgot (Fra) Europcar
9. Francisco Ventoso (Spa) Movistar
10. William Bonnet (Fra) FDJ all same time
Overall classification after stage 11
1. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Europcar in 42-06-32
2. Luis-Leon Sanchez (Spa) Rabobank at 1-49
3. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 2-26
4. Frank Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek at 2-29
5. Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek at 2-37
6. Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Highroad at 2-38
7. Peter Velits (Slo) HTC-Highroad at 2-28
8. Andreas Kloden (Ger) Radioshack at 2-43
9. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 2-55
10. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard-Trek at 3-08
Thomas Voeckler in race lead
The peloton endured another day of rain
Brit Ben Swift
Mark Cavendish wins his third stage and puts himself in the green jersey
Tour de France 2011: Related links
Tour de France 2011: Latest news
Tour de France 2011: Stage reports
Tour de France 2011: Highlights videos
Tour de France 2011: Photo galleries
Stage 10 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Tour de France 2011: Live text coverage
Tour de France 2011 LIVE: CW’s text coverage schedule
Stage seven live text coverage
Tour de France 2011: Archive videos
Video: 2003 Centenary Tour
Video: Lance Armstrong retrospective
Video: Behind the scenes at the Tour
Video: Guerini’s 1999 stage win
Video: Thrills and spills at the Tour
Video: Armstrong in 1999
Video: The Indurain years
Video: Ladies of the Tour
Video: Best of bizarre
Tour de France 2011: Archive articles
1999 Tour de France stage two: Passage du Gois causes chaos
Tour de France 2011: Related links
Tour de France: The jerseys, what they are and what they mean
Potted history of the Tour de France
The closest Tours in history
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Wiggins
Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index