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Tour de France stage 11: No raining on Cavendish’s parade

Stage 11: Blaye-les-Mines to Lavaur, 167.5km

An eye for an eye, a win for a win. In the midst of rain showers of near-biblical proportions, Mark Cavendish exacted revenge for his defeat by André Greipel yesterday in the only way he knows how – with a burst of acceleration in the final straight in Lavaur which not even the German could match. Victory put the Manxman into the green jersey for the first time since stage 12 of the 2009 race, although he is likely to lose it again over the next three days as the race now heads for the Pyrenees.

Mark Cavendish makes it three wins at this year's Tour - and the third straight year he has won stage 11 (image courtesy of Graham Watson)

A routine bunch sprint after a late scare

The day’s break formed after 13km and consisted of six riders. Frenchmen Mickaël Delage (FDJ), Jimmy Engoulvent (Saur-Sojasun) and Tristan Valentin (Cofidis) were accompanied by Lars Boom (Rabobank), Andriy Grivko (Astana) and Rubén Pérez (Euskaltel-Euskadi). All six started the day at least half an hour behind the yellow jersey of Thomas Voeckler, but were never allowed a gap of more than 4:20.

Delage led the disinterested break through the intermediate sprint halfway through the stage. Three minutes later, the sprint from the peloton was more hotly contested. Mark Cavendish took seventh place (and nine points) with ease, with José Joaquín Rojas just behind him and Philippe Gilbert relegated to eleventh.

The peloton gradually reeled in the breakaway as they prepared to set up a routine bunch sprint. Only it turned out to be a less than routine catch, as the other teams left it to HTC-Highroad to lead the chase in wet conditions which became increasingly torrential over the last 20km. With 10km to go the six escapees were holding on to a slender 30-second lead, but with the leaders continuing to ride hard the peloton only inched slowly closer.

Eventually Lampre sent two men to the front to bolster the pursuit and the gap finally started to tumble. With 5km to go time trial expert Boom decided to go it alone, but the momentum was now with the chasing pack and he was swept up with just over 2km remaining.

With HTC’s train stripped of its usual numbers, Garmin-Cervélo led the peloton under the 1km banner with Sky on their wing and Mark Renshaw piloting Cavendish just behind them, while Greipel, Rojas and Tyler Farrar scrambled for position on Cavendish’s wheel. In the final, Renshaw timed his move to perfection, cruising up behind Sky’s Geraint Thomas and launching out of his slipstream to slingshot his team leader towards home. Farrar could not hold the wheel, and Greipel was unable to make any impression on the gap as Cavendish maintained his 1½-length advantage to the line to take both the stage – his 18th in less than four years – and the green jersey. In the end, it was a remarkably straightforward victory, despite having to reach down to reattach his left shoe with 600 metres to go after a brush with Romain Feillu.

Cavendish was quick to reiterate his congratulations to Greipel on his win yesterday, and thanked his team for delivering him to victory here:

I spoke to André today and I said, “Technically that was one of the soundest sprints I’ve seen by a sprinter from this generation.” How he rode it was perfect. So I really can’t be disappointed with yesterday.

Yesterday I didn’t kick. I kind of rolled before kicking, so I made sure I kicked today. You can see the way that Mark [Renshaw] led me out, I went with 250 metres to go and I got the acceleration and I was able to hold it. I got the perfect lead-out and we proved that we’re the strongest team for a sprint in the peloton. It’s an incredible group of guys I’ve got around me.

I said yesterday that I was disappointed because they rode all day and I couldn’t win but I had to make amends today and I finished off the job that they set me up for.

He was overjoyed to finally be able to put on the green jersey:

It’s incredible to have the green jersey, it’s the most beautiful jersey in the world. It’s everything I wanted when I came here this year. It’s not easy fighting for the green jersey but I’m going to keep going and try to keep hold of it right through to the end.

Thomas Voeckler will spend a third day in the yellow jersey tomorrow, but he expected to struggle to maintain his lead:

I will try, but I honestly expect to lose the jersey tomorrow. That doesn’t mean that I won’t fight. We’ll see.

With most of the riders finishing in the main bunch, the top of the general classification remained unchanged and Johnny Hoogerland maintained his five-point lead in the King of the Mountains competition. All that will change tomorrow, however, with the first two hors catégorie climbs of this year’s race effectively forming the start of the real battle for the yellow jersey.

Stage 12 preview

Nearly two weeks into the race, we enter the high mountains of the Pyrenees for the first of this year’s four summit finishes which will shape both the general classification and the King of the Mountains classification. The first-category Hourquette d’Ancizan (9.9km, 7.5% average gradient) is an off-shoot of the more familiar Col d’Aspin, leading straight into the Tourmalet (17.1km, 7.3%) – the final hors catégorie climb of 2010 and the first of 2011 – scene of Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck’s climactic tête-à-tête last year. The descent from the Tourmalet takes the riders straight to the final climb of Luz-Ardiden (13.3km, 7.4%), which will see the first true selection of the GC contenders. It has not been used at the Tour since 2003, when Lance Armstrong was famously felled by the handles of a spectator’s bag and got up to win the stage, changing the momentum of a race which seemed to be swinging Jan Ullrich’s way.

The intermediate sprint precedes all three climbs, but comes at the end of a long uphill drag which will favour Gilbert and Rojas over Cavendish. It is also Bastille Day, so expect a wave of breakaway attempts from French riders, all hoping that the big guns will be too busy watching each other to mount a serious pursuit. This could be a day for a ‘home’ rider such as David Moncoutié to chase a famous victory.

Stage 11 result:

1. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) 3:46:07

2. André Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) same time

3. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo) s/t

4. Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) s/t

5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) s/t

General classification:

1. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) 45:52:39

2. Luis León Sánchez (Rabobank) +1:49

3. Cadel Evans (BMC) +2:26

4. Fränk Schleck (Leopard-Trek) +2:29

5. Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) +2:37

6. Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) +2:38

7. Peter Velits (HTC-Highroad) +2:38

8. Andreas Klöden (RadioShack) +2:43

9. Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) +2:55

10. Jakob Fuglsang (Leopard-Trek) +3:08

Points classification:

1. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) 251 pts

2. José Joaquín Rojas (Movistar) 235

3. Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 231

4. André Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 164

5. Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo) 163

Mountains classification:

1. Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM) 22 pts

2. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) 17

3. Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) 5

4. Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) 5

5. Rui Costa (Movistar) 5

Links: Tour de France official websiteSteephill.tv

Race analysis

Is the new green jersey points system working?

Week 1 winners & losers

Stage recaps

Stage 1: Gilbert climbs to victory as Contador faces uphill battle

Stage 2: Hushovd takes yellow as Evans misses out by one second

Stage 3: Farrar’s green jersey challenge is born on the 4th of July

Stage 4: Evans wins slug-fest but Hushovd clings on to yellow

Stage 5: Cannonball Cav conquers crash carnage

Stage 6: Boasson Hagen wins battle of the strong men

Stage 7: Cavendish wins again as the Sky falls in for Wiggins

Stage 8: Costa’s winning break as Contador continues to look vulnerable

Stage 9: Voeckler leads Tour of attrition as peloton licks its wounds

Stage 10: Greipel the Gorilla gets the monkey off his back

Tour de France preview

The Tour in numbers

Teams and sponsors (part 1)

Teams and sponsors (part 2)

Official Tour teaser video

Ten riders to watch

Six key stages

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

16 Responses to Tour de France stage 11: No raining on Cavendish’s parade

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