Mark Cavendish followed yesterday’s victory in Montargis by claiming his second win of this year’s Tour de France in Guegnon this afternoon to confirm that he is very much back at the top of his game following a difficult first few days of the race as he struggled to recapture his form after a build-up blighted by illness, injury and no small amount of controversy.
That was all forgotten as the Manxman held off Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Transitions and Lampre-Farnese Vini’s Alessandro Petacchi in a thrilling finish to Stage 6 in Gueugnon, as the peloton negotiated a tricky, twisting final couple of kilometres without mishap to set the stage for the bunch sprint.
With the earlier tailwind turning into a strong sidewind as the race entered its closing 10 kilometres, the big general classification contenders including Astana’s Alberto Contador and BMC Racing’s Cadel Evans moved up towards the front of the peleton to avoid a repeat of the split that happened last year on the stage into La Grande Motte, when HTC-Columbia took advantage to set up victory for Cavendish.
Afterwards, the 25-year-old, whose career tally now stands at a dozen stages of the Tour de France, said that his team had once again profited from the conditions, with the nervousness caused by the prospect of echelons forming bringing the race back together, and although it was Garmin-Transitions that once again led the race under the flamme rouge, it was HTC-Columbia’s Mark Renshaw who delivered his sprinter to the front at the right time.
At 227.5 kilometres, today was the longest stage of this year’s race, but that – and temperatures hitting over 30 degrees Celsius – didn’t deter a trio of intrepid escapees to get off the front of the peloton within minutes of the commissaire’s flag dropping outside Montargis.
That threesome, which spent more than 200km at the front of the race, comprised Perez Moreno of Euskaltel, Mathieu Perget of Caisse d’Epargne and Sebastien Lang of Omega-Pharma Lotto who swept up the points between them on the intermediate sprints and four Category 4 climbs, with Perget rising to second in the mountains classification, a point behind Jerome Pinaut of Quick Step.
But with the specialist climbers in the peloton now licking their lips at the prospect of the race heading into the Alps, the Frenchman now faces some serious competition to keep hold of it.
Meanwhile, the points classification is starting to bubble over nicely. Thor Hushovd remains in the green jersey by four points from Petacchi. But with the Norwegian finishing tenth today, the gap between him and Cavendish, who moves up to fifth, with Robbie McEwen of Katusha third and Caisse d’Epargne’s Jose Jouaquin Rojas fourth, has narrowed to 23 points.
The next few days, though, may well see Hushovd attack those sprint points that are available in the mountains to help consolidate his lead, a tactic that the Cervélo TestTeam rider employed successfully last year on his way to taking the maillot vert in Paris.
With the second half of tomorrow’s Stage 7 featuring three Category 2 climbs as it heads up to the finish at Station des Rousses, it’s likely that overall leader Fabian Cancellara will be spending his final day in the maillot jaune.
The question of whether it will be his fellow Team Saxo Bank rider Andy Schleck, defending champion Contador or one of the other overall contenders who takes it up – or a less heralded name after a successful break – should make for some gripping viewing.
Top 20 Tour de France 2010 Stage 6
1. CAVENDISH Mark TEAM HTC - COLUMBIA 5h 37' 42" 2. FARRAR Tyler GARMIN - TRANSITIONS + 00' 00" 3. PETACCHI Alessandro LAMPRE - FARNESE + 00' 00" 4. MC EWEN Robbie TEAM KATUSHA + 00' 00" 5. CIOLEK Gerald TEAM MILRAM + 00' 00" 6. TURGOT Sébastien BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM + 00' 00" 7. ROJAS Jose Joaquin CAISSE D’EPARGNE + 00' 00" 8. HAGEN Edvald Boasson SKY PRO CYCLING + 00' 00" 9. HUNTER Robert GARMIN - TRANSITION5 + 00' 00" 10. HUSHOVD Thor CERVELO TEST TEAM + 00' 00" 11. THOMAS Geraint SKY PRO CYCLING + 00' 00" 12. MONDORY Lloyd AG2R LA MONDIALE + 00' 00" 13. RENSHAW Mark TEAM HTC - COLUMBIA + 00' 00" 14. LANCASTER Brett CERVELO TEST TEAM + 00' 00" 15. ROELANDTS Jürgen OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO + 00' 03" 16. LADAGNOUS Matthieu FDJ + 00' 03" 17. DUMOULIN Samuel COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE + 00' 03" 18. KLUGE Roger TEAM MILRAM + 00' 03"
19. ARASHIRO Yukiya BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM + 00' 03
20. ROBERTS Luke TEAM MILRAM + 00' 03"
Top 20 on General Classification after stage 5
1. CANCELLARA Fabian TEAM SAXO BANK 28h 37' 30" 2. THOMAS Geraint SKY PRO CYCLING + 00' 20" 3. EVANS Cadel BMC RACING TEAM + 00' 39" 4. HESJEDAL Ryder GARMIN - TRANSITIONS + 00' 46" 5. CHAVANEL Sylvain QUICK STEP + 01' 01" 6. SCHLECK Andy TEAM SAXO BANK + 01' 09" 7. HUSHOVD Thor CERVELO TEST TEAM + 01' 13" 8. VINOKOUROV Alexandre ASTANA + 01' 31" 9. CONTADOR Alberto ASTANA + 01' 40" 10. VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO + 01' 42" 11. ROCHE Nicolas AG2R LA MONDIALE + 01' 42" 12. VAN SUMMEREN Johan GARMIN - TRANSITIONS + 01' 47" 13. MENCHOV Denis RABOBANK + 01' 49" 14. WIGGINS Bradley SKY PRO CYCLING + 01' 49" 15. MILLAR David GARMIN - TRANSITIONS + 02' 06" 16. KREUZIGER Roman LIQUIGAS-DOIMO + 02' 24" 17. SANCHEZ Luis-Leon CAISSE D’EPARGNE + 02' 25" 18. ARMSTRONG Lance TEAM RADIOSHACK + 02' 30" 19. LÖVKVIST Thomas SKY PRO CYCLIN + 02' 34" 20. ROJAS Jose Joaquin CAISSE D’EPARGNE + 02' 35"
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.