ToC Stage 4: Cavendish beats Boonen at the death
Cavendish wins out on a day of crashes at the Toc
Mark Cavendish grabbed his first stage win at this year's Tour of California when he took stage 4 by a couple of inches from Tom Boonen.
Yesterday's winner Thor Hushovd looked to have everything lined up for the win as the race entered the final kilometre, but Rabobank's Pieter Weening jumped off the front of the field well inside the final kilometre and everything was suddenly back in the mix.
In the final metres it all came together for Cavendish as the Columbia High Road train hit the front and he took the win from arch-rival, Boonen in what race fans will no doubt hope is one of many head to heads between these two in the coming season.
The lead up to the final sprint seemed to be following a similar pattern to the previous day's stages with an early break swept up in the final kilometres. This time though in a departure from this year's script the sun came out. Jason McCartney (Saxo Bank), Serge Pauwels (Cervelo test Team) and Tyler Hamilton (Rock Racing) were the riders in today's break; at one point they had over 6 minutes on the chasing Peloton, but as yesterday there was to be no denying the sprinter's and the Columbia High Road and Quick Step teams were doing much of the work at the front and were rewarded by getting their star men – Cavendish and Boonen respectively – into the final shakedown.
Race leader Levi Leipheimer finished safely in the pack to retain his lead in the overall classification. Leipheimer got through today's stage without falling off his bike, but others weren't so lucky and the day was marred by a number of crashes, Oscar Freire of Rababobank and Kim Kirchen of Columbia both ended up in hospital after one particularly nasty incident which also saw Floyd Landis (Team Ouch!) and Aaron Olson (Colavita/Sutter homes) involved as was Christian Vande Velde (Garmin Slipstream) was also hurt. In a later incident Scott Nydam of Team BMC also finished up in hospital after crashing on a descent as the field raced for the finish.
Top 10 ToC Stage 4
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia - Highroad 4.42.38 (39.289 km/h)
2 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
3 Juan José Haedo (Arg) Team Saxo Bank
4 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervélo TestTeam
5 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - Slipstream
6 Markus Zberg (Swi) BMC Racing Team
7 Freddy Rodriguez (USA) Rock Racing
8 Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) Colavita / Sutter Home p/b Cooking Light
9 Bernard Sulzberger (Aus) Fly V Australia
10 Martin Elmiger (Swi) AG2R La Mondiale
Top 10 Toc General Classification after stage 4
1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana 18.33.52
2 Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Columbia - Highroad 0.24
3 David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin - Slipstream 0.28
4 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana 0.30
5 Christopher Horner (USA) Astana 0.34
6 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana 0.38
7 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Team Columbia - Highroad
8 José Luis Rubiera (Spa) Astana
9 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas
10 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank 0.39