France

Sprinter's jersey eludes Cavendish despite stage win

HTC-Columbia's Mark Cavendish celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the 18th stage of the Tour de France
HTC-Columbia's Mark Cavendish celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the 18th stage of the Tour de France Reuters

The second and final individual time trial in this year’s Tour de France takes place on Saturday in Bordeaux. Is Alberto Contador likely to keep hold of his overall leader’s yellow jersey?

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Britain’s Mark Cavendish has again proved he is the best sprinter in this year’s Tour de France after securing his fourth stage victory this year and his 14th stage victory in three Tour de France appearences.

Cavendish riding for HTC-Colombia was first over the line at the end of Friday’s stage 18 between Salies de Bearn and Bordeaux, a distance of 198 kilometres, watched by amongst others the American actors Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz.

Stage win number four comes just over a week after Cavendish’s team mate Mark Renshaw was kicked out of the Tour for head-butting an opponant on the arrival line in stage 11 in Bourg les Valence.

The Brit admitted that Friday’s victory had been tougher without Renshaw and said he was dedicating it to his team mate.

Well, Mark Cavendish may well have been Friday’s stage winner, he still hasn’t picked up enough points to take the sprinters’s green jersey, which is now again on the shoulders of Alessandro Pettachi of Italy who ended today’s stage in 3rd place behind Julian Dean of New Zealand.

But "Cav" is now just 16 points shy of the lead in the points classification following his stunningly fast kick in the closing metres.

The biggest loser of the day was former green jersey holder Thor Hushovd of Norway who started Friday in green but lost it after ending the day in 14th place.

More now on the ongoing saga concerning the two favourites to win this year’s Tour, Alberto Contador of Spain who holds the overall leader’s yellow jersey and Andy Schlek of Luxembourg who is in second place. Contador has an eight second lead over Schlek and despite a series of unsuccessful attacks in the Pyrenees mountain stages this week, Schlek has been unable to win back any time.

So the outcome of this year’s race now centres on tomorrow’s individual time trial between Bordeaux and Pauillac, a distance of 52 kilometres, during which each rider will cycle alone and try to complete the stage in the fastest possible time.

Andy Schlek says he is up to the challenge as he wants to beat Alberto Contador and snatch the overall leader’s yellow jersey. Contador has admitted he expected a tough challenge from Schlek during Saturday’s stage, even though the Spaniard has always proved the stronger of the two in previous time trials.

Saturday’s stage takes place in reverse order with the rider at the bottom of the table, Bert Grabsch of Germany leaving first and the leading rider, Alberto Contador, leaving last.

And Andy Schlek knows that Saturday will be his last chance to secure victory in this year’s Tour de France.

 

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