His team insisted that Mark Cavendish was still the fastest man in the world despite a hiccup at the finish of stage four and in Montargis, the rider from the Isle of Man bolted ahead of all his rivals with 240 meters to go in the 187.5km stage from Epernay to claim his 11th stage victory in the Tour de France, his first in 2010. HTC-Columbia joined forces with Cervelo and Lampre to reel in the escape of the day and then Garmin-Transitions tried a sneaky move in the final three kilometers. Although it had numbers, Farrar was unable to finish off the job and he had to accept 10th place at the finish behind a group of sprinters that was chasing Cavendish all the way to the line. Tears fell as he stood on the podium a more humble man than the dominator of last year’s sprint stages. ‘Cav’ is back and he’s crying with joy…!
The Progress Report
The start of the 187.5km fifth stage of the Tour de France, from Epernay to Montargis, was at 12.53pm. There were 188 riders at the sign-on with Txurruka (EUS) the non-starter. On the menu on this hot day of racing, when temperature was 33 degrees Celsius at the start, were two cat-4 climbs – the cote de Orgais-l’Abbaye (18.5km) and cote de Mecrignes (36.5km) – and three intermediate sprints: in Vauchamps (27.5km), Ville-St-Jacques (126.5km) and Prefontaines (169.5km).
Gutierrez Takes Virtual Lead
At the 6km mark, Gutierrez (GCE) attacked and was joined by El Fares (COF) and van de Walle (QST). The Spaniard was the best ranked of the escape group, 50th at the start of the day, 3’24” behind Cancellara. By kilometer 21, Gutierrez was the virtual leader of the Tour as the peloton’s deficit to his escape was 5’50”. The maximum gain of the escape was 7’55” at the 28km mark and then HTC-Columbia sent Sivtsov to the front of the bunch; he was then joined by O’Grady (SAX). By 60km, the gain was reduced to 4’45”. These two were responsible for the pace of the peloton for about 80km. The average speed for the first hour was 41.2km/h; 38.3km/h for the second hour; and 41.3km/h for the third.
Setting Up The Sprint
With 50km to go, Lampre sent one rider to the front of the pack to assist in the pursuit. By then, the advantage had been reduced to 2’10”. Cervelo joined in the chasing duties with 27km to go. From there the advantage dropped steadily: 25km to go – 1’25; 15km to go – 1’10”; 10km to go – 40”. When the peloton got to within 20” (6.5km from the finish) Gutierrez attacked the lead group. With 5km to go, Gutierrez led the peloton by 12”. He was caught 4km from the line.
Garmin Lead It Out, Cavendish Takes The Win
The HTC-Columbia team didn’t have it all its way for the finale: it had the numbers at the head of the peloton but the Garmin squad squeezed up the right of the road with 3km to go. The team of Farrar had a force of five there for the final 2km and had three left as they led the peloton around the tight final turn with 600m to go. But then the wheels fell off for what looked like it might have been a surprise by the squad that hadn’t contributed to the chase of the escapees at all. Mark Renshaw proved that he is one of the the finest lead-out men in the world when he remedied what he said was an “error” from stage four – delivering Cavendish too soon – and this time he timed it to perfection. He dropped his leader off with 240m to go and then ‘Cav’ hit the turbo. He was chased all the way to the line by former team-mates Ciolek and Boasson Hagen but they didn’t have the speed to get around the master of sprinting. It is Cavendish’s 11th stage victory in the Tour de France.
Fabian Cancellara finished 32nd in the stage and will keep the yellow jersey for another day.
The rider in the green jersey had the speed to match Mark Cavendish’s lead-out men but by the time the sprint came, his energy was spent – but Thor Hushovd was able to increase his lead in the points classification with his fifth place.
“It was very fast and very nervous in the final on rather narrow roads where everyone wanted to be near the front. We knew there was a turn at 600 meters from the finish, and there was a big fight because he had already had to be in the top 10 if you hoped to win. I spent so much energy in this passage to match the pace of [Mark] Renshaw, and in the last 200 meters I had nothing left to respond to [Mark] Cavendish.
“It is true that Boasson Hagen is perhaps spirited to become the main threat to my green jersey! He is there every day, and it seems better and better. It would be rather funny we might both be in the fight for the head of the points classification – or in a finish of a stage.”
After his 20th day in the yellow jersey, Fabian Cancellara was asked if could now start considering winning the Tour de France… he was realistic about it, saying it was a dream, but he didn’t say he wouldn’t do that one day.
"My team is okay, we do what we have to do. We do the job that’s required of us and I think we’re also trying to spend as little energy as possible before the days that are yet to come. And yeah, we are ready for what’s ahead.
“I hear from the journalists that this was my 20th day in the yellow jersey but while I won’t say I’ve stopped counting, I haven’t exactly kept track of my tally. Still, it’s always nice to wear it and 20 days is a lot. Maybe I’ll never be able to say I’ve won the Tour but at least I can say that I’ve had 20 or 21 or 22 in the lead of the race. I don’t know how many it’s going to be but I’m happy every day I can ride in yellow. I enjoy it every ride… even on the crazy hot days like we had today.
“It’s a dream to consider winning the Tour… I don’t know if it’s possible. It’s remains a dream but I have other goals and other ambitions, and I will go for that.”
After a crash in stage one and his 12th place in stage four, Mark Cavendish’s team continued to believe in “the fastest man in the world”. Kanstantsin Sivtsov spent about 100km on the front of the peloton to reel back an escape, and then the rest of the lead-out train was put on the rails before ‘Cav’ pulled off a stunning sprint win.
“I just sat on Mark Renshaw’s wheel and I knew he’d deliver me to the right place and he did. I just had to go for the line and it was slightly uphill… we looked the finish on Google Earth this morning and it looked like a flat finish but we had the info relayed back by Erik Zabel about how it wasn’t so flat. We had to keep the speed high and it’s an incredible feeling to win.
“All that pressure that has built up through the year has finally been lifted. For sure, I’m going to try and win more stages but thank god the work paid off today.
“It’s the Tour de France, it’s the biggest bike race in the world, and it was the goal this year to win again but so many people wanted to take away from me and the team had done. It doesn’t matter how much you say [criticism] is not going to affect you, it does. It puts pressure on you.
“We didn’t have the best of luck in the first few days and yesterday we did have luck but I let the guys down. They did a one hundred per cent perfect job and it could have been easy for them to give up today but they took it on again. They did more than they should have had to do and that’s an incredible thing to have.
“It’s an incredible bunch of guys who put their faith in me and to ride like they did amazing. ‘Kosta’ [Sivtsov] is bandaged from head to toe and for the last two days he’s ridden nearly 300km on the front and the other guys did a lot more than they had to. Tony Martin has something to work for in the later days and Michael Rogers is going for GC but they still rode and all I did was follow Mark Renshaw. He was fighting and fighting with everyone but he got me there and dropped me off at the line perfectly.
“I’ve had doubts about myself, especially yesterday but we gave it a shot again and it’s nice to finally win.
This is Mark Cavendish’s 11th stage win in the Tour de France, the first of 2010. The top 10 in Montargis is: 1. Mark Cavendish (GBR) THR - 4h30’50" 2. Gerald Ciolek (GER) MRM 3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) SKY 4. Jose Joaquim Rojas (ESP) GCE 5. Thor Hushovd (NOR) CTT 6. Sebastien Turgot (FRA) BTL 7. Robbie McEwen (AUS) KAT 8. Alessandro Petacchi (ITA) LAM 9. Lloyd Mondory (FRA) ALM 10. Tyler Farrar (USA) GRM
It was a test of patience for the HTC-Columbia lead-out. Renshaw admitted that he went too soon yesterday but today he powered to the front with 400m to go and dropped ’Cav’ off at the 240 mark... from there he bolted into the lead and took the victory he always knew he could achieve.
Mark Cavendish has the perfect lead-out from Renshaw and the HTC-Columbia team have got their win. Cav beat Ciolek and Boasson Hagen.
Three Garmins are at the front of the peloton in the final kilometer... It’s time for the sprint to begin.
Eisel (THR) is now at the front of the bunch. He is the second-last lead-out man for Cavendish. Next up is Renshaw but he cannot be seen behind the Garmin team’s riders...