UK's Cavendish wins stage 5 of Tour de France

Photo: AFP

Britain's Mark Cavendish won the fifth stage of the Tour de France in Marseille on Wednesday after avoiding a pile-up in the final kilometre. Australian Simon Gerrans retained the race leader's yellow jersey.


British sprinter Mark Cavendish finally hit form to win the fifth stage of the Tour de France in a sprint finish on Wednesday and Australian veteran Simon Gerrans kept the yellow jersey.

Cavendish made a poor start to the Tour but this 24th career Tour stage win will boost his confidence and launch his bid to win the sprinters’ green jersey.

“I’m super happy,” Cavendish said. “Now the pressure’s off and hopefully it has started the ball rolling.”

With a few hundred meters to go, Cavendish sat on his teammate Gert Steegmans’ wheel and got into a perfect position to attack and held off a challenge from Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen.

Peter Sagan, who leads the green jersey contest, finished in third place. But Cavendish pulled back to within 35 points in second place overall.

“I’m motivated, I’ve got good form and a great team around me,” Cavendish said, praising Steegmans. “He did a great job.”

The 84-year-old Andre Darrigade, who won 22 Tour stages as a sprinter, warmly greeted Cavendish after his win.

Cavendish needs one more stage win to tie Andre Leducq for third on the Tour’s all-time list of stage winners, and he could do that on Thursday as stage six again favors sprinters.

If he does that, he could eye Bernard Hinault’s 28 wins, the second-highest total after Eddie Merckx’s imperious record of 34.

While Cavendish was raising his arms in triumph, behind him there was more chaos as about a dozen riders hit the tarmac in a crash. It was unclear who caused it.

The 228.5-kilometer (142-mile) route featured some small climbs but was otherwise flat, starting out from the tourist beach resort of Cagnes-sur-Mer and finishing in the southern sea port of Marseille.

It was a quiet afternoon with the pack rolling along at a slow pace until a crash toward the end brought down 15-20 riders.

Gerrans held off Sagan to win Monday’s third stage in a sprint finish and helped his Orica Greenedge team to narrowly win Tuesday’s time trial on stage four in a Tour record time. It was enough to take the leader’s jersey from Belgian Jan Bakelants.

Gerrans is only the sixth Australian to wear the yellow jersey – the first was Phil Anderson in 1981 – and to celebrate Orica Greenedge took the start line with yellow helmets on.

Japanese rider Yukiya Arashiro and Frenchman Kevin Reza formed part of an early six-man breakaway group.

None has even won a Tour stage, so the pack let them go. They opened up a lead of more than 10 minutes, which was whittled down to about eight minutes when the peloton reached the foot of the day’s third small climb.

With the sun out, and little difficult terrain, the average speed for the first four hours was a low 40 kph (25 mph).

Finally, with a little more than 50 kilometers (31 miles) to go, there was a split in the breakaway group as Arashiro, Alexey Lutsenko of Kazakhstan and Thomas De Gendt of Belgium charged ahead. Reza left the other two behind to join them.

Then, just like on Saturday’s first stage, there was a crash with about 15 kilometers (9 miles) remaining.

It appeared that BMC rider Brent Bookwalter, sitting in the middle left of the pack, was the first to fall and others tumbled around him. American veteran Christian Vande Velde was among them and received treatment on the side of the road.

Thursday’s sixth stage is a flat 176.5-kilometer (110-mile) route from Aix-en-Provence to Montpellier, meaning that Gerrans has a good chance of keeping hold of the yellow jersey.

The race heads into the mountains for the first time on Saturday’s eighth stage from Castres to Ax 3 Domaines in the Pyrenees.


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