Eurosport - Thu, 08 Jul 16:31:00 2010
Britain’s Mark Cavendish returned to form to win stage five of the Tour de France after a sprint finish in Montargis.
It was the 11th stage win of Cavendish's Tour de France career and made amends for disappointments in the first and fourth stages of this year's race.
The Garmin-Transitions team seemed in control of the lead-out, but Cavendish’s HTC-Columbia team-mate Mark Renshaw burst through the centre and provided the perfect platform for the Manxman to launch his sprint.
Prologue winner Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) finished safely in the pack to retain the leader’s yellow jersey.
Former Spanish time-trial champion Jose Ivan Gutierrez initiated the day’s breakaway with an early attack, and was immediately joined by Julien El Fares of Cofidis and Quick Step’s Jurgen van de Walle.
The trio rapidly opened up a gap of almost eight minutes on the peloton, but the work of HTC-Columbia’s Kanstantin Sioutsou and Saxo Bank’s Stuart O’Grady kept the gap manageable, and at no stage did the sprinters’ teams look in danger of being caught out.
The gap was slowly ground down as the pack made their way through the Champagne region of France under a blazing sun and in searing heat, and despite a courageous last-ditch attack from Gutierrez, the three riders had been brought back in with four kilometres remaining.
HTC-Columbia, which had dominated the finishes of sprint stages last year, seemed in relative disarray five kilometres from home as Tyler Farrar’s Garmin-Transitions team, headed by David Millar, amassed at the head of the field.
They occupied the first three spots as they rounded a crucial, tight, right-hand bend with 600 metres to go, but were then outdone by a devastating turn of speed from Renshaw.
Cavendish remained firmly on the Australian’s wheel, and finally found the speed that allowed him to power clear of his rivals to cross the line half a bike-length clear of Ciolek. His tears on the podium in the post-stage ceremony revealed the amount of pressure that had lifted from his shoulders after a hitherto disappointing start to the Tour.
Cavendish’s rival Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) finished fifth, and retains the green jersey.
Friday’s sixth stage is the last opportunity for the sprinters to fight for stage victories before the race moves into the lower mountains of the Alps on Saturday.