Mark Cavendish of HTC-Columbia took his third sprint of this year’s Tour de France, winning Stage 11 in Bourg-les-Valence this afternoon, as team-mate Mark Renshaw used his head – quite literally – to move Garmin-Transitions lead-out man Julian Dean out of the way to free up the way for the Manxman to sprint to the line. Cavendish took the win but Renshaw was subsequently booted out of the race for his tactics in the run-in.
Dean had been looking to set up Tyler Farrar for his first victory in this year’s Tour, but the American, still suffering from the broken hand he suffered on Stage 3 of the race, had to content himself with third place as Lampre-Farnese Vini’s Alessandro Petacchi came home in second place.
With Cervélo TestTeam’s Thor Hushovd finishing a disappointing seventh, it is Petacchi who wears the green jersey tonight, on a day when Cavendish rode himself right back into contention for the points competition.
The HTC-Columbia rider, who took his haul of Tour de France stage wins to 13, now lies 29 points behind the Italian, but will fancy his chances in the remaining sprints in Revel on Friday, Bordeaux a week after that, and of course the Champs-Elysées when the race finishes in Paris a week on Sunday.
This morning, immediately the white flag dropped in Sisteron to signal the end of the neutralised start to today’s 184.5km stage on roads rarely visited by the race, three riders – the French pairing of Anthony Geslin of Francais des Jeux and Stephane Auge of Cofidis, plus the Footon-Servetto rider Jose Benitez from Spain – powered off the front of the peloton, which seemed happy to let them go.
With a sprinter-friendly finish to today’s stage however, a comparative rarity in this year’s edition of the Tour, the peloton kept a watchful eye on the escapees as they headed up the day’s only major climb, the Category 3 Col de Cabre, and after building up a maximum advantage of some five minutes, they were eventually caught with a little over 20km to go.
Today’s route followed roads rarely visited by the race – both the start and finish towns were hosting the Tour for the first time in its 107-year history – and riding into a headwind, Team Saxo Bank forced the pace at the front of the peloton inside the final 20km, keeping maiillot jaune Andy Schleck safely out of trouble.
As speeds topped 50km an hour on a steady descent towards the finish in the closing kilometres, the peloton began to string out as some of the domestiques who had put in big efforts for their team leaders during the Alps found it hard to keep up with the pace, with temperatures once again topping 30 degrees Celsius adding to their misery.
With 8km left, Sylvain Chavanel of Quick Step, two-time stage winner and twice wearer of the yellow jersey in this year’s Tour, launched an attack off the front of the race, and was quickly joined by Yaroslav Popovych of Team RadioShack, but a vigilant Berhard Eisel at the front of the HTC-Columbia train quickly brought the peloton back to close the gap.
Inside the closing 5km, it was Jeremy Hunt of Cervélo TestTeam who moved to the front, working for green jersey wearer Hushovd, but once he peeled off it was Petacchi’s Lampre-Farnese Vini team that came to the fore, before HTC-Columbia and Garmin-Transitions fought it out after the race passed under the flamme rouge.
Julian Dean stole a march on Mark Renshaw but the Australian responded by headbutting the Garmin-Transitions man three times, before attempting to nudge Farrar into the barriers as he came past. The punishment has been swift and severe, Renshaw receiving an instant disqualification from the race which puts a big dent in Cavendish's chances on the Champs-Elysées.
Race official Jean-Francois Pescheux said of the incident: "Renshaw was declassified immediately but we have decided to also throw him off the race. We've only seen the pictures once, but his actions are plain for all to see. This is a bike race, not a gladiator's arena."
Top 20 Tour de France 2010 Stage 11
1. CAVENDISH Mark TEAM HTC - COLUMBIA 4h 42' 29" 2. PETACCHI Alessandro LAMPRE - FARNESE + 00' 00" 3. FARRAR Tyler GARMIN - TRANSITIONS + 00' 00" 4. ROJAS Jose Joaquin CAISSE D’EPARGNE + 00' 00" 5. McEWEN Robbie TEAM KATUSHA + 00' 00" 6. ARASHIRO Yukiya BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM + 00' 00" 7. HUSHOVD Thor CERVELO TEST TEAM + 00' 00" 8. MONDORY Lloyd AG2R LA MONDIALE + 00' 00" 9. ROELANDTS Jürgen OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO + 00' 00" 10. CIOLEK Gerald TEAM MILRAM + 00' 00" 11. TURGOT Sébastien BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM + 00' 00" 12. RENSHAW Mark TEAM HTC - COLUMBIA + 00' 00" 13. HAGEN Edvald Boasson SKY PRO CYCLING + 00' 00" 14. FREIRE Oscar RABOBANK + 00' 00" 15. PEREZ MORENO Ruben EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI + 00' 00" 16. SANCHEZ Samuel EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI + 00' 00" 17. ROBERTS Luke TEAM MILRAM + 00' 00" 18. ROCHE Nicolas AG2R LA MONDIALE + 00' 00" 19. DE WEERT Kevin QUICK STEP + 00' 00" 20. MARTINEZ Egoi EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI + 00' 00"
Top 20 on General Classification after Stage 11
1. SCHLECK Andy TEAM SAXO BANK 53h 43' 25" 2. CONTADOR Alberto ASTANA + 00' 41" 3. SANCHEZ Samuel EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI + 02' 45" 4. MENCHOV Denis RABOBANK + 02' 58" 5. VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO + 03' 31" 6. LEIPHEIMER Levi TEAM RADIOSHACK + 03' 59" 7. GESINK Robert RABOBANK + 04' 22" 8. SANCHEZ Luis-Leon CAISSE D’EPARGNE + 04' 41" 9. RODRIGUEZ OLIVER Joaquin TEAM KATUSHA + 05' 08" 10. BASSO Ivan LIQUIGAS-DOIMO + 05' 09" 11. KREUZIGER Roman LIQUIGAS-DOIMO + 05' 11" 12. HESJEDAL Ryder GARMIN - TRANSITIONS + 05' 42" 13. ROCHE Nicolas AG2R LA MONDIALE + 06' 23" 14. VINOKOUROV Alexandre ASTANA + 06' 31" 15. ROGERS Michael TEAM HTC - COLUMBIA + 07' 04" 16. SASTRE Carlos CERVELO TEST TEAM + 07' 13" 17. WIGGINS Bradley SKY PRO CYCLING + 07' 18" 18. EVANS Cadel BMC RACING TEAM + 07' 47" 19. LÖVKVIST Thomas SKY PRO CYCLING + 08' 03" 20. KLÖDEN Andréas TEAM RADIOSHACK + 09' 05"
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.