Eurosport - Fri, 23 Jul 16:52:00 2010
Mark Cavendish won his fourth stage in this year's Tour de France as he took stage 18 after a sprint finish in Bordeaux.
Despite not having the help of his banned lead-out man Mark Renshaw, Cavendish still showed immense pace to comfortably outsprint his rivals as he finished ahead of Julian Dean and Alessandro Petacchi.
Petacchi's third place finish was enough to see him reclaim the green jersey from Thor Hushovd who faded in the final few metres and finished just 14th.
Petacchi now has 213 points in the green jersey standings, with Hushovd back on 203. Cavendish (197) has also given himself an outside chance of winning the points classification in Paris.
General Classification contenders Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck stayed out of trouble although the Saxo Bank rider was spotted getting treatment from the doctor for what looked like a saddle sore.
Contador takes an eight second lead over his rival into Saturday's 52km individual time trial from Bordeaux to Pauillac and is widely expected to extend his lead before the procession to Paris on Sunday.
Before the late sprint drama the stage was a fairly drab affair. A group of four riders - Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank), Daniel Oss (Liquigas), Benoit Vaugrenard (FranÁaise des Jeux) and Jerome Pineau (Quick-Step) - were out in front for most of the 198km trek from Salies de Bearn but never looked like holding on.
The most interesting thing to happen in the middle stages of the race was a bit of celebrity spotting, with Hollywood stars Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz caught on camera watching the action.
HTC-Columbia controlled the peloton and made sure the leading group's gap never went above four minutes, and coming into the final 15km they had effectively closed down the group of four's efforts.
Oss broke free to make a solo bid for victory but was finally gobbled up in the final few kilometres as the sprint teams put their trains in formation.
It was Team Sky who did most of the lead-out work as the Columbia squad looked cooked but Sky's man Edvald Boasson Hagen could only finish sixth in the final sprint as Cavendish, despite being somewhat isolated, burst out of the pack to take a comfortable victory.
It was the 14th Tour stage victory of the Manxman's career and he becomes only the second ever British rider to win in Bordeaux.