Tour 2011: Cavendish Sprints To Stage Win

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Stage 5 of the 2011 Tour de France was an undulating affair, with the riders rolling over 165.5km (102.2 miles) of open road between Carhaix and Cap Fréhel in Brittany. While the stage was marked with a series of rolling hills, there were no serious climbs, leaving the sprinters to duel it out for points and the eventual stage win. That stage in went to Mark Cavendish of HTC-Highroad who blasted past a group of Green Jersey contenders to nab his first stage win of the year.

For Cavendish, the win will once again quiet the whispers, as so far this year he had been shut out, and out dueled, but he likes of Tyler Farrar and Philippe Gilbert. Mark has a similarly slow start last year, but went on to claim five stage victories, silencing his critics and bringing his career total in the Tour to 15. He now has 16.

Today’s ride was marred by more crashes all over the course, some with serious consequences. We’ll have to wait for the final tally, but it seems that at least two or three riders will likely be out of the race. We know that RadioShack’s Janez Brajkovic of Slovenia has definitely abandoned, and Belgian Tom Boonan was definitely hurting when he reached the line, more than 12 minutes behind the leaders.

Three-time defending champ Alberto Contador found himself in the one of those crashes once again, but he seemed to escape unscathed. He ended up losing no time on the day, although he did toss his $10,000 bike into the ditch out of frustration while he waited for a new one to be delivered. At the moment, Contador sits in 39th place, 1:42 behind the the Yellow Jersey of Thor Hushovd, and more importantly well behind Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck, his main rivals.

Speaking of the Yellow Jersey, Thor will continue to wear it for another day, while the Green Jersey now belongs to Gilbert, who finished second to Cavendish today and is sprinting well. Evans holds on to the Polka Dot Jersey and will probably do so at least until Saturday. Thomas Geraint remains in the White Jersey as well, which goes to the best rider under the age of 25.

Tomorrow’s Stage 6 is the longest of the Tour, running for 226.5km (140.72) miles between Dinan and Lisieux. The riders will appreciate the fact that the’ll move away from the coast during this stage, as winds coming off the water tore the Peloton up today. They’ll also face two Category 3 climbs, as well as a Cat 4, on a road that will test the legs of the riders and keep the sprinters from completely dominating. It should make for an exciting ride once again.

Kraig Becker