Mark Cavendish today claimed his fourth stage win in this year’s Tour de France, equalling not only his record of last year but, perhaps more significantly, also the great Barry Hoban’s tally of eight stage wins.
A feat that took Hoban eight years to achieve, Cavendish has achieved in just two.
His rivals must now be wondering what they can possibly do to come to terms with the Manxman’s devastating turn of speed in the final few hundred metres.
Once again Cavendish’s Columbia-HTC team-mates worked tirelessly at the head of the main field to pull back the day’s two escapees, Johan Van Summeren (Silence-Lotto) and Marcin Sapa (Lampre).
Approaching the outskirts of Saint Fargeau, Cavendish’s rivals attempted to upset the Manxman ahead of the uphill finish, apparently convinced it was too steep for him, as Cervélo, Garmin and Milram all tried to infiltrate the Columbia train.
Cavendish left his sprint relatively late, Thor Hushovd looked as though he had struck upon a way of topping the Briton. Jumping before Cavendish’s last lead-out man, Mark Renshaw, had pulled off, Hushovd looked as though he had Cavendish trapped.
However, the diminutive Manxman squeezed through the gap between his team-mate and Hushovd just as Garmin’s Tyler Farrar began to come to terms with the duo.
Yet it was Cavendish who demonstrated why he is the most marked man in the peloton, demonstrating his ability to surge twice in a bunch gallop, as he edged clear of his rivals on the uphill finish with enough time to throw his arms in the air in evident delight.
Farrar is getting closer to Cavendish by the day and would have been closer, had he not been forced to go the long way round a fading Hushovd.
Significantly, Cavendish’s kick in the last hundred metres was so powerful, it sent Hushovd backwards and he claimed only fifth, enough for the Briton to recapture the green jersey.
“My team knew what it had to do today,” said Cavendish after the stage, who for the first time, is beginning to show signs of fatigue.
“It just shows how great the team is that it can adapt to different scenarios and situations. We had four guys in the last kilometre which meant I could use a smaller gear than normal for the sprint.”
Of the uphill finish, Cavendish was typically direct: “It’s fine, it was a sprint finish. It’s not like it was Mont Ventoux”.
With 11 stages down, and Cavendish having claimed almost half of them, there are three potential stages remaining that could suit the Briton, but he had eyes for just one of them: “there’s only one that matters to me,” he said, thinking of the Champs Élyseés in Paris.
2009 Tour de France, Stage 11: Vatan-Saint Fargeau, 192km
1. Mark Cavendish (Columbia)
2. Tyler Farrar (Garmin)
3. Yauheni Hutarovich (Francaise des Jeux)
4. Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
5. Thor Hushovd (Cervélo)
6. Leonardo Duque (Cofidis)
7. Gerald Ciolek (Milram)
8. Lloyd Mondory (Ag2R)
9. William Bonnet (Bouygues Telecom)
10. Nicolai Trussov (Katusha)
Overall classification after stage 11
1. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Ag2r in 43-28-59
2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana at 6sec
3. Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana at 8sec
4. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana at 39sec
5. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Garmin-Slipstream at 46sec
6. Andreas Kloden (Ger) Astana at 54sec
7. Tony Martin (Ger) Columbia-HTC at 1-00
8. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Slipstream at 1-24
9. Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 1-49
10. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 1-54
Mark Cavendish (Columbia) 176 pts
Thor Hushovd (Cervélo) 169 pts
King of the Mountains
Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
Young riders’ classification
Tony Martin (Columbia)
Mark Cavendish takes a fourth 2009 Tour de France stage, and the eighth Tour win of his career
Stage 10: Cavendish spoils Bastille Day party to take third stage win
Stage nine: Third French win as contenders content with ceasefire
stage eight: Sanchez wins from break as Tour favourites cancel each other out
Stage seven: Feillu wins at Arcalis, Nocentini takes yellow, Contador leap-frogs Lance
Stage six: Millar’s brave bid denied on Barcelona hill as Hushovd triumphs
Stage five: Voeckler survives chase to win his first Tour stage
Stage four: Astana on top but Armstrong misses yellow by hundredths of a second
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Stage three: Cavendish wins second stage as Armstrong distances Contador
Stage two: Cavendish takes first sprint
Stage one: Cancellara wins opening time trial
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