Mark Cavendish won his third victory in this year’s tour in dominating fashion to take the coveted maillot vert.
It was another rain-soaked day inFranceand the GC favorites just wanted to stay out of harm with an epic stage in thePyreneesMountainslooming on Thursday.
The peloton almost misjudged the breakaway, not catching Rabobank’s Lars Boom until there was just over a kilometer remaining.HTCwas doing the lion’s share of the work without much help. At one point they were down to two riders left before Sky, Garmin, and Lampre finally sent some troops to the front.
With the catch made,HTCtried to assert itself but Garmin and Sky overwhelmed them on the front. Cavendish and lead out man Mark Renshaw smartly tucked in behind the train as Sky and Garmin riders continued to drop off. With about 500 meters to go Renshaw emerged from the dwindling pack with Cavendish glued to his wheel.
Yesterday’s stage winner Andre Greipel launched his sprint down the left side. The ever alert Cavendish blasted off down the right side gaining two bike lengths on Tyler Farrar. Greipel crossed the road in a desperate attempt to catch Cavendish’s wheel but by this time he was too late. The Manx Missile had a commanding lead and took the stage by a bike length even though he sat up to celebrate his 18th Tour victory.
The sprinters will be hoping to survive as the Tour enters the high mountains tomorrow. The stage should be epic with climbs up the Tourmalet and a summit finish atop Luz Ardiden.
Race favorite Alberto Contador will be looking to close the gap on Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck. The stage should show us who the contenders and pretenders are. Evans can time trial nearly as well as Contador but can the Aussie hang in the mountains. Schleck has shown he can climb with Alberto but his time trial appears to be severely lacking again this year.
For the GC men, the Tour starts tomorrow.