Cavendish keeps temper to win Tour’s 11th stage
Lavaur, France — Mark Cavendish nearly lost a shoe on the final stretch to the finish but kept his cool to win a rainy 11th stage of the Tour de France in a mass sprint yesterday, easily beating Andre Greipel of Germany at the finish line to seize the leading sprinter’s green jersey.
Cavendish made the most of the last stage designed for sprinters before the race reaches the Pyrenees to claim his 18th stage win at the Tour, his third in this year’s race. He won in 3 hours, 46 minutes, 7 seconds.
“It’s incredible to have the green jersey, it’s the most beautiful jersey in the world,” said Cavendish, who benefited from a perfect lead-out by his HTC-Highroad teammate Mark Renshaw to prevail with a bike length.
French rider Thomas Voeckler kept the race leader’s yellow jersey after the 167.5-kilometer (104.1-mile) trek from Blaye-les-Mines to Lavaur. Voeckler finished 75th in the stage but with the same time as the winner.
Cavendish’s efforts were almost ruined toward the end when he hit the front wheel of Frenchman Romain Feillu’s bike about 600 meters from the finish line.
Cavendish, who took the jersey from Philippe Gilbert of Belgium, now leads Jose Joaquin Rojas by 16 points. He will have two more opportunities to win stages before the race ends on the Champs Elysees on July 24.
Despite his impressive tally of stage wins at the Grande Boucle, the coveted sprint champion’s jersey has so far eluded the 26-year-old Cavendish.
He was second last year, 11 points behind Alessandro Petacchi of Italy, and second by 10 points to two-time sprint champion Thor Hushovd in 2009. Cavendish pulled out before the Alpine stages in 2008 to conserve energy for the Olympic Games.
Cavendish claimed revenge for his loss to Greipel in Tuesday’s stage, when his former teammate surged ahead at the finish to claim his first win on the Tour.
Voeckler said he is now expecting to lose his yellow jersey in today’s 12th stage, which takes the riders on the first of a three-day trek across the Pyrenees with a punishing 211-kilometer (131-mile) ride over the legendary col du Tourmalet and finishing on top of Luz-Ardiden.
The stage is likely to be a key moment of the race. It also features a new climb, the Hourquette d’Ancizan, a 9.9-kilometer (6.15-mile) ascent with an average gradient of 7.5 percent.
Defending champion Alberto Contador, who has been hampered by crashes this year, trails Cadel Evans of Australia and Andy Schleck of Luxembourg by 1:41 and 1:30, respectively, before visiting his favorite playground. AP
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