Mark Cavendish significantly closed the gap in the points competition with an emphatic win in today’s stage 18 in Bordeaux. Without his lead out man Mark Renshaw to deliver him to the finish; Cavendish deftly maneuvered from wheel to wheel in the last kilometer.
Team Sky was dominating the front when they crossed under the 1 kilometer banner with Cavendish sitting in eighth position. Then Cervelo broke through, guiding points leader Thor Hushovd to the front. Cavendish quickly jumped on his wheel with Allesandro Petacchi behind him.
Petacchi jumped first and this proved to be his undoing. Cavendish followed Petacchi to the left and sat in the Italians slipstream for about 25 meters and then made the winning move taking the stage by at least four bike lengths. Cavendish was so far in front that there was not another rider in the picture when they showed the overhead view.
Garmin Transition’s Julian Dean took second, with Petacchi in third, and Hushovd finishing a distant fourteenth. Petacchi regained the green jersey and Cavendish, with his fourth stage win, significantly closed the gap on the two points leaders.
|1||Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini||213||pts|
|2||Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team||203|
|3||Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team HTC – Columbia||197|
Cavendish has to be the front-runner to take the win on the Champs Elysées on Sunday; the question is, where will Petacchi and Hushovd finish? Had Cavendish not crashed on stage one he certainly would have at least scored points and would likely be the one defending his green jersey rather than trying to steal it on the Tour’s final day.
Contador and Schleck hid in the peloton nursing their tired legs for the showdown in Bordeaux tomorrow. Contador historically is the better time trialist and will probably put a minute or more into Schleck. He hasn’t won a stage yet and I think he’ll want to get the stage win tomorrow. Of course Fabian Cancellara is the best time trialist in the world. Will he be out for his own victory? Or will he ride to give critical information to teammate Andy Schleck?
Schleck recently won his country’s time trial championship and will be looking to represent Luxembourg well and to ride the time trial of his life. Can he beat Contador? Not likely, but Murphy’s Law has dominated this tour and in the end, I think Contador will hold on for the win and his third Tour victory.
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