Cavendish Wins Second Straight Stage of Tour
Mark Cavendish (Columbia) has won his second consecutive stage of this year's Tour de France and his fourth stage overall. Cavendish bested Robbie McEwen (Silence) and Romain Feillu (Agritubel) in a bunch sprint to win the rolling, 182-km run from Narbonne to Nimes in 4:25:42. Cadel Evans (Silence) remains the maillot jaune.
The racing began early. At four km, Niki Terpstra (Milram) and Florent Brard (Cofidis) escaped and led by 9:55 at 21 km. Columbia began to ride tempo to peg the lead. Eventually, Francaise des Jeux joined the American squad, and the fugitives' lead fell to 8:45 at 35 km to 6:35 at 75 km and 2:00 at 142 km.
At 155 km, with the peloton within a minute of the break and with Brard's teammate Stephane Auge attempting to bridge, Terpstra attacked and dropped Brard. With 20 km left, Terpstra led Auge and Brard by 1:00 and the bunch by 1:42. The Dutchman, however, began to cramp, and the bunch was coming on. The field reeled in Terpstra with 10 km left.
With eight km remaining, Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) attacked. Three km later, he led the field by 0:10. Columbia and Gerolsteiner led the pursuit and reeled in the Frenchman with three km left.
Columbia, Milram, Quick Step, and Gerolsteiner battled for control of the peloton. McEwen started the sprint and Cavendish was boxed in with 300 m left. The Columbia man darted from wheel to wheel until he found a hole and burst into the lead with 150 m left.
In the overall, Evans leads Frank Schleck (CSC) by 0:01 and Christian Vande Velde (Garmin) by 0:38. Stage 14, the last stage before the Alps, should also produce a sprint winner. The course is gently rising, but the field should stay together to fight out the finish. Who will win? Cavendish again? Oscar Freire (Rabobank)? McEwen? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!