Stage 11: Vatan - Saint-Fargeau
By AFP & Cyclingnews.com
Wednesday, July 15, 2009 3.15pm
No change to the lead: Nocentini still in yellow
Britain's Mark Cavendish will continue leaving his rivals picking up the crumbs after claiming a record-equalling fourth victory from this year's Tour de France on Wednesday.
Italian Rinaldo Nocentini of AG2R-La Mondiale retained the race leader's yellow jersey after the 11th of the 21 stages, with a six- and eight-second lead respectively on race favourites Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong of Astana.
Cavendish, meanwhile, showed another clean pair of heels to his sprint rivals to equal his four stage wins from last year.
His eighth victory, from the past two of his three participations, equalled the British record held until now by Englishman Barry Hoban, who carved out his eight stage wins in the 1960s and '70s.
Because of another technical finish and a slight incline leading to the finish, Cavendish said his crucial lead-out train which helps deliver him to the finish had to adapt their tactics accordingly.
"It was slightly uphill in the last 500 metres so we knew we had to leave it later, it was going to be different from the full-blown fast lead-out that we're used to," he said.
"But we still had to take control. You saw how well we worked, the guys adapted to that situation. Normally we have two guys in the last kilometre but today we had four because I had to be delivered to 150 metres (from the finish). I kept the gears small, and sprinted in the 13 or 14 (cog) instead of the 11 today and I was able to get the jump on Thor (Hushovd) and win.
"It was beautiful the way the guys could just adapt to the situation to deliver me to a perfect position to sprint," he added.
American Tyler Farrar came close, but not close enough, to beating the 'Manx Express', who also picked up 35 points at the finish to reclaim the green jersey from Norwegian rival Hushovd.
Garmin sprinter Farrar was the only rider to stay with Cavendish when he pulled away in the final 150 metres, but the American still finished half a bike length behind.
Hushovd, who won his only stage so far this year last weekend in Barcelona, finished fifth to pick up 22 points. He is now on 169 in the points competition, seven adrift of Cavendish.
Pole Marcin Sapa of the Lampre team and Belgian Johan Vansummeren of Silence got the stage drama underway when they attacked at the 24km mark.
The pair worked constantly to build a lead on the peloton but, lacking the extra leg muscle that more riders would have brought to the table, they were allowed a maximum advantage of only 4:35 at the 41km mark before the sprinters' teams eventually swallowed them up with five kilometres to race.
While the dominant Columbia team played a key role in the chase, and in the finale, the AG2R team of Nocentini were also obliged to contribute to help defend his yellow jersey.
The Italian, who got up unhurt from a crash early in the stage, is not an overall victory contender, but he still hopes to enjoy another few days in the spotlight before the serious stuff begin in the Alps as of Sunday.
"The yellow jersey isn't going to change me, but I'd still like to be able to defend it until Sunday," said the Italian, who enjoyed his fourth full day in the race but could face a tough test on Friday's stage 13 from Vittel to Colmar.
"Friday is going to be a very difficult stage, but I'm in good condition," he added.
Cavendish meanwhile will take aim at both Thursday and Saturday's stages, which could end in possible bunch sprints.
But despite the likes of Hushovd, Farrar and Belgian Tom Boonen continuing to miss out, he is not giving any secrets away.
Asked what advice, if any, he could offer to them Cavendish was curt: "Cross the line before me."
© AFP 2009
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