Tour de France Stage 18:Vintage Cavendish wins it in Bordeaux
Petacchi third, Thor out of it as green jersey battle heads for Paris

Mark Cavendish of HTC Columbia won his fourth stage of this year's Tour de France in Bordeaux this afternoon, taking a closely fought bunch sprint from Julian Dean of Garmin Transitions and Lampre-Farnese Vini's Alessandro Petacchi.

With Thor Hushovd of Cervelo TestTeam once again off the pace in the finale, Petacchi now leads the Norwegian by 10 points in the race for the green jersey, and Cavendish is only six points further back in third place.

Coming into the final three kilometres of today's 198km stage form Salies de Bearn, Team Sky had come to the front of the peloton as they looked to set up Edvald Boasson Hagen to set up their first stage win in this, their debut Tour de France, but it wasn't to be, and the young Norwegian finished sixth behind Katusha's Robbie McEwen and Rabobank's Oscar Freire.

After the exertions of the last four stages in the Pyrenees, the riders today appeared visibly relaxed, Cavendish even caught by the TV cameras jokingly pretending to crack the whip as his HTC-Columbia colleagues and Lampre-Farnese Vini headed the peloton as it rolled towards Bordeaux.

With a sprint finish on the cards on the Quai Louis XVIII, those two teams forced the pace to keep in check a four-man breakaway comprising Matti Breschel of Team Saxo Bank, Daniel Oss from Liquigas, Française des Jeux’s Benoit Vaugrenard, Quick Step's Jerome Pineau, and Matti Breschel of Team Saxo Bank, and the latter three were swept up with 13km to go.

Oss bravely tried to solo his way to a win but the 24-year-old Italian was himself caught taround 3.5km from home, and although Milram's Linus Gerdemann also tried to get away on his own, he too was swiftly brought back into the bunch.

By that time, however, the quartet had already snapped up the intermediate sprint points on offer, meaning that Hushovd is now at  huge disadvantage to Petacchi on Sunday’s final stage into Paris, with his hopes of retaining the green jersey resting on him picking up points on two intermediate sprints, both on the Champs-Elysées, and finishing ahead of the Italian.

Cavendish can still win the points competition too, but in order to do so he would have to finish well ahead of Petacchi, and so far the Italian has proved to be very competitive in the sprint, picking up two stage wins himself, making him the favourite now to take the green jersey on Sunday.

While yesterday’s stage up to the Tourmalet was watched from race director Christian Proudhomme’s car by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, today’s action was witnessed from the same vantage point by Hollywood royalty in the shape of Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise.

The latter could perhaps give Andy Schleck some tips on how to carry out what looks certain to be a mission impossible in tomorrow’s 52km individual time trial from Bordeaux to Pauillac in which the Luxembourg rider will make a final – and in all probability, futile – attempt to overturn race leader Alberto Contador’s 8-second advantage.

Schleck had other things to occupy his mind today, however, dropping back to the race doctor’s car for a brief consultation then angrily swatting away the ever-watchful TV motorbike crew as it became apparent that it was saddle sores that were causing him discomfort.

Stage 18 Result

  1. CAVENDISH Mark           TEAM HTC-COLUMBIA 4h 37' 09"
  2. DEAN Julian              GARMIN-TRANSITIONS All same time
  3. PETACCHI Alessandro      LAMPRE-FARNESE
  4. MC EWEN Robbie           KATUSHA TEAM
  5. FREIRE Oscar             RABOBANK
  6. HAGEN Edvald Boasson     SKY PRO CYCLING
  8. ROJAS Jose Joaquin       CAISSE D’EPARGNE
  9. BOLE Grega               LAMPRE-FARNESE
  10. PEREZ Ruben              EUSKALTEL-EUSKADI
  11. TURGOT Sébastien         BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM
  12. ROUX Anthony             FDJ
  13. MONDORY Lloyd            AG2R LA MONDIALE
  14. HUSHOVD Thor             CERVELO TEST TEAM
  15. BALLAN Alessandro        BMC RACING TEAM
  18. ROCHE Nicolas            AG2R LA MONDIALE

Overall Standings after Stage 18

  1. CONTADOR Alberto          ASTANA            88h 09' 48"
  2. SCHLECK Andy              TEAM SAXO BANK      + 00' 08"
  3. SANCHEZ Samuel            EUSKALTEL-EUSKADI   + 03' 32"
  4. MENCHOV Denis             RABOBANK            + 03' 53"
  5. VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen     OMEGA PHARMA-LOTTO  + 05' 27"
  6. GESINK Robert             RABOBANK            + 06' 41"
  7. RODRIGUEZ Joaquin         KATUSHA TEAM        + 07' 03"
  8. HESJEDAL Ryder            GARMIN-TRANSITIONS  + 09' 18"
  9. KREUZIGER Roman           LIQUIGAS-DOIMO      + 10' 12"
  10. HORNER Christopher        TEAM RADIOSHACK     + 10' 37"
  11. SANCHEZ Luis-Leon         CAISSE D’EPARGNE    + 12' 46"
  12. PLAZA Ruben               CAISSE D’EPARGNE    + 13' 01"
  13. LEIPHEIMER Levi           TEAM RADIOSHACK     + 14' 24"
  14. KLÖDEN Andréas            TEAM RADIOSHACK     + 14' 44"
  15. ROCHE Nicolas             AG2R LA MONDIALE    + 16' 00"
  16. VINOKOUROV Alexandre      ASTANA              + 17' 57"
  17. GADRET John               AG2R LA MONDIALE    + 17' 59"
  18. LÖVKVIST Thomas           SKY PRO CYCLING     + 18' 30"
  19. DE WEERT Kevin            QUICK STEP          + 20' 03"
  20. MORENO Daniel             OMEGA PHARMA-LOTTO  + 25' 23"

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.


Jon Burrage [998 posts] 5 years ago

Was a pleasure to see, was at about 200m to go, watched Cav taking it easy behind Hushovd then he accelerated and won at a canter.

Afterwards a few of us hung around the HTC car and waited, Cav had obviously been doing his interviews but was an utter gent, signing caps and t shirts, having photos taken, chatting to us all. I know it is easy to be nice when you win but he was very approachable and it certainly made an impact on everyone who had waited ebcause he really seemed to appreciate it...and his dad was there too who was also very chatty and friendly. Lovely!