Mark Cavendish won his third stage of the Tour de France in decisive style but it was an ill-disciplined sprint, with his lead-out man Mark Renshaw nudging his head at Garmin’s Julian Dean three times before shutting the door on Tyler Farrar.
Renshaw, the Australian HTC-Columbia rider, was kicked out of the Tour for repeatedly headbutting Dean. He was not listed in the results of the day’s stage and was expelled, although HTC-Columbia were set to appeal the decision.
Victory in the 11th stage from Sisteron to Bourg-lès-Valence was the 13th of Cavendish’s career, lifting him above Erik Zabel, Robbie McEwen and Mario Cipollini – the modern legends of sprinting – in the all-time list of Tour stage winners. Only 12 riders have won more stages in the Tour’s history than British sprinter.
At the finish, Renshaw was locked in a battle with Dean as they approached the line. Dean was marginally in front of Renshaw and tried to close over to the left-hand barrier, which could have blocked Cavendish’s way to the line.
So Renshaw nudged Dean with his head three times – the third time particularly firmly – and then moved to the left himself to shut the door on Dean’s team-mate Farrar, who was trying to get onto Cavendish’s wheel.
By then, though, Cavendish had already opened up his sprint and was on his way to the line.
Cavendish said: “Julian was fighting with Mark at the finish. The gap was closing in so even though it was a long way from the finish I had to go. It wasn’t really a sprint it was a long breakaway by my standards anyway.”
Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) was second and that meant he took the lead in the green jersey competition from Thor Hushovd, who was only seventh on the stage.
Cavendish’s bid to haul himself back into contention continues. He started the day trailing Hushovd by 41 points. Tonight he is 29 points behind the new leader Petacchi, and 25 behind Hushovd.
But it will still be a tall order for Cavendish to win the green jersey. There are only two sure-fire stages for the sprinters – at Bordeaux next Friday and in Paris on the final Sunday. Cavendish would need to win both and hope that both Petacchi and Hushovd are outside the top five or six. And that’s without taking into account the possibility of Hushovd going on the attack to gain points on the mountain stages, as he did last year.
Renshaw’s disqualification from the Tour will hamper Cavendish’s chances at Bordeaux and in Paris, though
The 11th stage was a routine day for most of the riders. The first attack came after just two kilometres and the bunch were willing to let them go. It was Cofidis rider Stéphane Augé who went for it and he was joined by Anthony Geslin of Française des Jeux and Jose Alberto Benitez of Footon-Servetto.
The three worked well together but never gained enough of a lead to have any chance. With 22km to go Augé and Benitez were caught – Geslin had already lost contact with the other two and had been swallowed up.
With 8km left, Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) tried his luck and was joined Yaroslav Popovych (Radioshack) but it was shortlived.
Saxo Bank kept the pace high and ensured the yellow jersey, Andy Schleck, was near the front and out of trouble. Then the sprinters’ teams – HTC-Columbia, Garmin-Transitions and Lampre, with a bit of help from Team Sky – set up the finish.
It was a rocky finish but the result was not in doubt. A third stage for Cavendish. There was no change to the overall picture.
Britain’s Charly Wegelius, riding for Omega Pharma, and Robbie Hunter of Garmin-Transitions did not start the stage. Wegelius was the first British rider to abandon this year’s race, leaving seven.
Tomorrow’s 12th stage heads to Mende and finishes on top of the hill named after Laurent Jalabert. It’s a difficult finish and although it won’t cause the overall favourites many problems they will have to be alert.
Stage 11: Sisteron – Bourg-lès-Valence
1. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Columbia 184.5km in 4-42-29
2. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre
3. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Transitions
4. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
5. Robbie McEwen (Aus) Katusha
6. Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
7. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervélo
8. Lloyd Mondory (Fra) Ag2r
9. Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma
10. Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Milram all same time
1. Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank in 53-43-25
2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana at 41sec
3. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 2-45
4. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 2-58
5. Jurgen Van den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma at 3-31
6. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Radioshack at 3-59
7. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 4-22
8. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 4-41
9. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 5-08
10. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas at 5-09
Points competition Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre)
King of the mountains Jérôme Pineau (Quick Step)
White jersey Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) – to be worn by Robert Gesink (Rabobank)
The ill-fated escape group
Stage 11 scenery
Alberto Contador and Mark Cavendish
Mark Cavendish takes his third Tour stage win of 2010
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