GUEUGNON // Mark Cavendish wrote a new page in British cycling history when he equalled the feats of three of the Tour de France's top sprint greats with his 12th career victory on Friday. Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland retained the race leader's jersey after a long, 227.5km Stage 6 from Montargis which, for the second day, resulted in a bunch sprint after another futile breakaway.
"Tomorrow if I still have it I'll be even more proud," Cancellara said. "But I also know we'll be in the mountains, so we have to see how the race goes tactically." For the second consecutive day, Cavendish proved too fast for his rivals, the Isle of Man sprinter coming off the wheel of the formidable lead-out man Mark Renshaw to finish the final 200m on his own. The American Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Transitions was second, with Italian Alessandro Petacchi of Lampre finishing third ahead of Australian Robbie McEwen and German Gerald Ciolek.
Cavendish's 12th stage victory in a mere three participations on the Tour means he matches the stage-win record of Erik Zabel, Mario Cipollini and McEwen. Cavendish, 24, was quick to share credit with the HTC-Columbia team riders who battled to set up his sprint train. "I cross the line with my hands in the air, but it doesn't make me necessarily the only guy who's done it," Cavendish said. "I've got guys riding for me on the front all day.
"It's incredible to do, especially with the Alps coming up where some of our guys will have their own ambitions." A three-man breakaway formed early but, despite their lead reaching a significant eight minutes by the 60km mark, the collective strength of the peloton gradually prevailed. With 73km to ride, the lead of the Spaniard Ruben Perez Moreno, the German Sebastian Lang and France's Mathieu Perget had been more than halved.
Cavendish's team were ever-present at the front of the chasing pack for most of the day. They were joined by the Saxo Bank team of Cancellara and some other sprinters' teams as they rolled through Burgundy. Together, they helped slash the deficit to just 40 seconds with 25.4km and only one of the stage's small climbs remaining, making the prospect of a bunch sprint a mere formality. Frenchman Dmitri Champion jumped out of the chasing peloton on the final climb with 23km to go, and soon closed the gap to the three leaders.
But despite the quartet battling together, they were reeled in with 10km to race. With crosswinds threatening to split the pack, the teams of the yellow-jersey contenders, Astana, RadioShack and Saxo Bank, moved to the front to make sure their leaders were not caught behind. Inside the final kilometre, Farrar's Garmin team pulled to the front, giving him the momentum for the final sprint where he could not match the power of Cavendish. * AFP
1. M Cavendish HTC 5' 37' 42' 2. T Farrar Garmin same time 3. A Petacchi Lampre same time 4. R McEwen Katusha same time 5. G Ciolek Milram same time 6. S Turgot BB Tel same time 7. JJ Rojas Caisse same time 8. EH Boasson Sky same time 9. R Hunter Garmin same time 10. T Hushovd Cervelo same time
1. F Cancellara Saxo 28' 37' 30' 2. G Thomas Sky 20' behind 3. C Evans BMC 39' 4. R Hesjedel Garmin 46' 5. S Chavanel Quick Step 1' 01' 6. A Schleck Saxo 1' 09' 7. T Hushovd Cervelo 1' 16' 8. A Vinokourov Astana 1' 31' 9. A Contador Astana 1' 40' 10. J v d Broeck Omega 1' 42' Yellow jersey: Fabian Cancellara Green jersey: Thor Hushovd Red dot jersey: Jerome Pineau White jersey: Geraint Thomas Team leaders: Team Saxo Bank (Denmark)