Spain's sprint specialist and three-time world champion Oscar Freire has won the 14th stage of the Tour de France, while Australia's Cadel Evans retained the overall leader's yellow jersey.
Three-times world champion Oscar Freire honoured his green jersey with victory in the 14th stage of the Tour de France, a 194.5-km trek from Nimes, on Saturday.
The Spaniard, who wears the jersey for the best sprinter but had not won a stage this year, prevailed in a sprint, beating Colombian Leonardo Duque of the Cofidis team.
German veteran Erik Zabel came home third for Milram.
Australian Cadel Evans of the Silence-Lotto team retained the overall leader's yellow jersey after a quiet day in the peloton.
Freire, who won three Tour stages in 2002 and 2006, now enjoys a 47-point lead over Norway's Thor Hushovd in the points classification and looks set to take the green jersey all the way to Paris for the first time if he manages to go through the Alps.
"I stayed behind Zabel's wheel and came out at the right moment," said Rabobank's Freire.
"I knew I had to stay on his wheel, that I could not lose an inch and then I had enough power to win it."
In scorching heat, 21 men broke away after 15 km but the peloton reacted swiftly to catch them.
Four riders, however, managed to stay ahead and France's Sandy Casar and William Bonnet, with Dutchman Bram Tankink and Spain's Jose Ivan Gutierrez, opened up a six-minute lead.
The sprinters' teams stepped up a gear midway through the stage.
A breakaway split came some 25 km from the finish when Gutierrez attacked Casar and Tankink after Bonnet was dropped.
Casar and Tankink were swallowed with less than 20 km to go, with Gutierrez pulling over 10 km from the finish.
In the fourth-category ascent to the Col de l'Orme, Mark Cavendish, who has won four stages this year, dropped out of the main bunch and could not take part in the final sprint.
France's Romain Feillu launched the sprint far from the line but could not keep up the pace as Freire powered ahead for his fourth Tour stage victory and his 60th career win.
Cavendish, who struggled in the Pyrenees, is expected to pull out of the race on Sunday during the first Alpine stage in order to prepare for next month's Olympics.
"He is clearly very tired," said Team Columbia manager Bob Stapleton.
"I think we have to seriously consider him stepping out. That's something we need to give full consideration to.
"It's important for us that he is part of that decision so we'll talk with him when he feels better," the American added.
The 15th stage will take the peloton over 183 km from Embrun to Prato Nevoso, in Italy, on Sunday.
Date created : 2008-07-19