Mark Cavendish wins stage five of the 2008 Tour de France, his first stage

Stage five photo gallery>>

Britain’s Mark Cavendish has won his first Tour de France stage today. The Manxman out-sprinted his rivals to take the 2008 Tour’s fifth stage in Châteauroux.

Mark Cavendish put his hands on his head as he crossed the finish line in Chateauroux, almost in disbelief that he had won a Tour de France sprint, but when he watches the replay he will see just how well he won it.

Cavendish went early after he saw Mark Renshaw lead out Thor Hushovd on his right. He kept looking under his wheel to see where his rivals were but did not need to worry, because they were all behind and unable to match his finishing speed.

Cavendish crossed the line in the middle of the road with all the other sprinters defeated behind him. He really is the fastest sprinter in the world.

?It?s the biggest thing to happen to me without a doubt,” Cavendish said right after the stage. “To win a stage is massive and to win it so young is amazing.”

?We were disappointed the other day and so we were really motivated today. They nearly stayed away at the end but we knew they?d go for it.?

?When Hushovd?s lead out man Mark Renshaw went early I knew had to go early. I would have preferred to wait but I?ve been working hard and I?ve got good fitness so I had to go then.?

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) was second, Erik Zabel (Milram) was third, Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) was fourth and Baden Cooke (Barloworld) fifth.

The general classification remains unchanged, with Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) still in the overall lead. Britain’s David Millar (Garmin-Chipotle) retains his third spot going into tomorrow’s stage from Aigurande to Super Besse. Millar is targeting the stage as a possibility of taking over the race lead.

EARLY ACTION
The 232km stage was the longest of this year?s Tour but that did not the attacks with the first going clear a few seconds after Christian Prudhomme dropped the start flag.

After 11 kilometres of skirmishes and intense chasing, Lilian Jegou (Francaise des Jeux), Nicolas Vogondy (Agritubel) and Florent Brard (Cofidis) got away and the bunch let them go up the road.

Behind, Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) was not having as much fun and climbed off and retired. He crashed on stage one and a scan on Monday confirmed he has a compound fracture in his right hand and a painful scafoide in his left hand. Already a poor bike handler, Soler crashed in the neutralised section of the stage and climbed off because he was in too much pain to stay in the fast moving bunch.

Soler also crashed out in the Giro d?Italia and is having a terrible season.

The rest of the break was a steady pursuit match across the fields of central France with chateaus and cows filling the fields.

The gap between the French trio and the bunch hovered around five minutes for most of the stage as Gerolsteiner rode tempo and then gradually fell as more and more sprinters? teams set riders to the front.

The trio made a late surge in the final 20km and Vogondy made a desperate late solo attack he only acted as something to aim at and Cavendish powered after him and passed him just before hitting the line to win his first ever stage in the Tour de France.

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: STAGE 5 RESULTS
1. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia 232km in 5h 27m 52sec

2. Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
3. Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram
4. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole
5. Baden Cooke (Aus) Barloworld
6. Robert Hunter (RSA) Barloworld
7. Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis
8. Robbie McEwen (Aus) Silence-Lotto
9. Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Liquigas
10. Julian Dean (NZ) Garmin-Chipotle all at same time.

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 5
1. Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner in 19h 32m 33secs

2. Kim Kirchen (Lux) Columbia at 12secs
3. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Chipotle at 12secs
4. Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto at 21secs
5. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) CSC-Saxo Bank at 33secs
6. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle at 37secs
7. George Hincapie (USA) Columbia at 41secs
8. Thomas Lovkvist (Swe) Columbia at 47secs
9. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 58secs
10. Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 1m 1sec

Tour de France 2008Mark Cavendish scores his first ever Tour de France win

Tour de France 2008Made it: Cav enjoys his podium moment

Photos by Graham Watson and Luc Claessen

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: STAGE REPORTS

Stage four: Schumacher wins TT and takes race lead
Stage three: Dumoulin wins stage from break
Stage two: Hushovd wins chaotic sprint
Stage one: Valverde wins

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: NEWS

Tour comment: Why Evans should be happy [stage four]
Millar: Still aiming for Tour yellow jersey [stage 4]
Who is Romain Feillu?
Cavendish disappointed with stage two result
Millar too close to Tour yellow jersey
Stage 2 preview: A sprint finish for Cavendish?
Millar happy after gains precious seconds in Plumelec
Valverde delighted with opening Tour stage win
Comment: Is Valverde’s win a good thing for the Tour?

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: PHOTOS

>Stage five
Stage four
Stage three
Stage two
Stage one

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: GUIDE

Tour de France 2008 homepage>>
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