With Bordeaux as the second to last opportunity for the sprinters to unleash their power, it was once again Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) showing the world he doesn't even need a lead out man. France's wine capital, which doubles as the sprinters' capital in the Tour de France, provided a spectacular show for the thousands of spectators.
Mark Cavendish of Britain rides in the pack during the 18th stage of the Tour de France cycling race.
AP Photo/Bas Czerwinski
A typical breakaway took off early on the stage from Salies-de-B?arn to Bordeaux. The four-man group rode most of the 198 kilometer stage in perfect unison until just outside of 10 kilometers to go. Three of the four, including Jerome Pineau (Quick Step) fell back into the peloton, but Daniel Oss (Liquigas) had ideas of grandeur. He was able to stave off the peloton for the next 6 kilometers, averaging a gap of 20 seconds. Although he was eventually caught, he rightfully claimed the award for most aggressive rider.
As the sprinters entered the town of Bordeaux, it appeared Team Sky was fully prepared to launch their fast man Edvald Boassen Hagen to the line for a much needed stage win. But it was Cervelo TestTeam making the pace in the final kilometer for Norwegian Thor Hushovd. Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) looked to be in the mix as well in the hunt for the green jersey. Petacchi moved to the left to create a second echelon, giving an added advantage to Cavendish who would jump from behind Thor's wheel onto Petacchi's. Cavendish simply out-powered every other man in the field with an effortless acceleration. He gapped the rest of the bunch by a few meters, and even had time to look back to check the location of his competitors before crossing the line.
Cavendish won his fourth stage in this year's Tour, and his 14th career Tour stage win. "When Alessandro went with 275 (metres) to go I thought he had the jump on me, so I was pretty happy that I was able to get the jump on him," said Cavendish. "He went on the left and I came around him on the right," added the Isle of Man rider, who played down the ease with which he won the stage. "It doesn't matter whether you win by a lot or five bike lengths. A win's a win." As for the green jersey for the best sprinter, "I've got to try and win on the Champs Elysees, whatever the situation," added Cavendish. Cavendish is currently in third, 6 points behind Hushovd and 16 behind the new leader Petacchi.
Petacchi ripped the green jersey from Hushovd, however the Italian recognizes there is no rest until the Champs Elysees: "I still have to pick up points in the final sprint."
For Hushovd, who feels his sprint has been compromised by an injury earlier this year, the optimism is gone after his 14th place finish on today's stage. "That's it, the green jersey is over for me," said Hushovd. "I just haven't been good enough in the sprints." Hushovd went as far as to ride himself into 10th in Stage 16 in Pau.
There was no change in the General Classification, and Alberto Contador (Astana) retained the yellow jersey and his 8 second lead over Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank). Contador was joined on stage by Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, to whom he presented signed yellow jerseys, "Here is a yellow jersey, which I hope to win on Sunday."
Stage 18 Results
- Mark Cavendish (THR) - 04:37:09
- Julian Dean (GRM) +00:00
- Alessandro Petacchi (LAM) +00:00
- Robbie McEwen (KAT) +00:00
- Oscar Freire (RAB) +00:00
- Edvald Boasson HAgen (SKY) +00:00
- Alberto Contador (AST) 88:09:48
- Andy Schleck (SAX) +00:08
- Samuel Sanchez (EUS) +03:32
- Denis Menchov (RAB) +03:53
- Jurgen Van Den Broeck (OLO) +05:27
- Robert Gesink (RAB) +06:41
10. Christopher Horner (RSH) +10:37
13. Levi Leipheimer (RSH) +14:24
23. Lance Armstrong (RSH) +37:58
60. George Hincapie (BMC) +01:45:30
Overall Points Standings
- Alessandro Petacchi (LAM) - 213 Points
- Thor Hushovd (CTT) - 203 Points
- Mark Cavendish (THR) - 197 Points
King of the Mountains Jersey
- Anthony Charteau (BBO) - 143 Points
- Christophe Moreau (GCE) - 128 Points
- Andy Schleck (SAX) - 116 Points
Best Young Rider
- Andy Schleck (SAX) - 88:09:56
- Robert Gesink (RAB) +06:33
- Roman Kreuziger (LIQ) +10:04
198K (123 miles) - Friday July 23
- Watch for a sprint to the finish in Bordeaux
- Sprint Points at: Castelnau-Chalosse, Hostens