Eurosport - Thu, 15 Jul 16:49:00 2010
HTC-Columbia's Mark Cavendish won the 11th stage of this year's Tour de France - his third - following a bunch sprint at the end of the route from Sisteron to Bourg-les-Valences.
A serene day of riding on the flat 184.5-kilometre stage in high temperatures exploded into life at the line as the Briton finished ahead of sprint rivals Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin) amid huge controversy.
Mark Renshaw again laid the foundations for team-mate Cavendish, although the part he played in the closing moments of the stage resulted in his disqualification from the Tour.
The HTC-Columbia leadout man headbutted his Garmin counterpart Julian Dean in a bid to block him off, prompting immediate and decisive sanctions from race organisers.
Tour technical director Jean-Francois Pescheux said: "Renshaw is out. This is cycling, not fighting."
The win was Cavendish's 13th career Tour stage win and saw him surpass the likes of Mario Cipollini, Robbie McEwen and his mentor Erik Zabel and draw level in 13th place on the all-time list with Philippe Thys.
From the riders in the current peloton, only Lance Armstrong (RadioShack) now has more career stage wins (22).
Despite being pipped at the line by Cavendish, Petacchi took the green jersey from Thor Hushovd (Cervelo), who finished in seventh. Cavendish moved up to fourth in the sprinter standings, behind McEwen (Katusha), who came in fifth.
Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) retained the yellow jersey and his 41 second advantage on the General Classification over Alberto Contador (Astana). Samuel Sanchez (Euskatel) and Denis Menchov (Rabobank) remain in third and fourth respectively.
The finish-line drama was in stark contrast to the rest of the stage which, apart from a single category three climb up the Col de Cabre, was largely a gentle downhill ride.
From the outset in Sisteron, Stephane Auge (Cofidis), Anthony Geslin (Francaise des Jeux) and Alberto Benitez (Footon-Servetto) attacked to form an early breakaway which was allowed to ride alone for much of the day.
But the peloton refused to allow the breakaway to build up a significant lead, and at its largest, the gap was just over five minutes.
Before long the escapees were caught; Geslin was the first to drop out, 27 kilometres from the end, while Auge and Bentiez clung on a little longer until they were swallowed up with 22 kilometres remaining.
HTC-Columbia, Team Sky, Garmin and Lampre all jostled for position as the finish line neared, but it was Cavendish, courtesy of Renshaw, who took victory to become only the seventh rider in Tour history to win at least three stages in at least three consecutive editions of the race.Mike Hytner / Eurosport
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