HTC-Highroad's Mark Cavendish dug in deep to win Stage 5 of the 2011 Tour de France from Carhaix to Cap Frehel this afternoon, his first victory in this year's race. Philippe Gilbert of Omega Pharma-Lotto was second, with green jersey Jose Joaquin Rojas of Movistar third after a hard-fought sprint, while Thor Hushovd of Garmin-Cervelo retains the race lead. An incident packed day saw a series of crashes on the roads of Brittany involving overall contenders including Alberto Contador, Robert Gesink and Bradley Wiggins, while Tom Boonen also came down heavily. The most serious chute involved RadioShack’s Janez Brajkovic, who was taken away in an ambulance, his Tour de France over.
Those crashes all took place in the space of around 20 hectic minutes either side of the day’s intermediate sprint, which once again provoked controversy as Cavendish, stripped like Hushovd of the points both had won on Monday’s stage, sat up ahead of the line protesting that he had been cut up as riders, most notably Quickstep’s Tom Boonen, cut across his line.
The race jury subsequently disqualified not only Boonen but also points classification leader Rojas from that intermediate sprint, meaning that the green jersey now passes to Gilbert who today gave his new Belgian national champions jersey a rare outing, having already sported the yellow, green and polka dot jerseys since winning the opening stage of this year's race.
There was no question of Cavendish easing up in the sprint at the end of the stage, however. In a scrappy finale, the Manxman fought hard to get on Geraint Thomas's wheel and used the Welshman to lead him out - a glimpse of things to come next season should his rumoured move to Team Sky be confirmed, perhaps? - pushing hard on the pedals as he edged out his rivals.
Borut Bozic of Vacansoleil-DCM had won the intermediate sprint, taking the maximum 11 points remaining after a four-man breakaway had ridden through around 5 minutes earlier, but in the main bunch behind him a crash, apparently after a touch of wheels, saw fellow Slovenian Brajkovic come down very heavily and it was quickly apparent that the 27-year-old’s race was over.
Rabobank’s Robert Gesink was also involved in that crash but rejoined the race, although he needed attention from the race doctor as blood streamed from a cut to his left knee.
Moments later, defending champion Contador, already more than a minute and a half down on his general classification rivals, ended up in a roadside ditch, angrily throwing his bike to the ground as he waited for his team car to arrive with a spare bike. Ripped jersey apart, Contador seemed unhurt, but the chase to get back on was probably the last thing he needed after being narrowly beaten by Cadel Evans on the Mur de Bretagne yesterday.
Then, just after the Spaniard’s Saxo Bank SunGard team mates had succeeded in pacing him back to the bunch, Nicki Sorensen’s bike was hooked by a photographer’s motorbike that seemed to be attempting to overtake when there was no room to do so, and was actually being ridden on the grass verge at the time.
The Danish champion was thrown off his bike and onto the verge, but the incident could have been much worse, with the motorbike dragging his bike off along the road. Had the rider still been tangled on it, he would surely have suffered serious injury. Race organisers ASO have been said to be considering placing further restrictions on the number of photo motos allowed on the Tour, and the incident involving Sorensen will add to pressure to do so.
Before the drama of the intermediate sprint, Bradley Wiggins had needed to change bikes as he was among a number of riders to follow what was pretty much a mass clipless moment as the peloton suddenly slowed to a halt as it rode up a narrow country lane. The British champion, sixth in the GC, was quickly led nack to the peloton by his Team Sky colleagues.
By now, nervousness appeared to have spread throughout the entire peloton, and the next rider to hit the deck was Boonen, some 60km out. As with Contador, the TV cameras missed the crash itself, but in its immediate aftermath the Quickstep rider seemed to be on the verge of abandoning the race. Despite evidently being in a lot of pain, and seeming to have perhaps fractured his collarbone, the Belgian former world champion gritted his teeth, got back on his bike, and rode on.
Four riders had attacked early on in today’s stage, Sebastien Turgot of Europcar, Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Jose Ivan Gutierrez, Movistar’s Tristan Valentin and the Cofidis rider Anthony Delaplace, 21 years of age, making him the ‘Benjamin du Tour’ – the youngest rider in this year’s race.
The quartet were caught with 45km to go, and with 30km of the 164.5km stage left, FDJ rider Jeremy Roy, winner of the prize for the most combative rider yesterday, and Europcar’s Thomas Voeckler went off the front and managed to establish a lead of a minute over the peloton with 12km left.
With the wind behind them, the peloton, led by Garmin-Cervelo and HTC-Highroad, slashed that lead in half over the next 2 kilometres. With Team Sky, Lampre and Vacansoleil also joining the chase, the main bunch made the catch with just under 2km remaining ahead of a technical, twisting and turning finale, but not before Voeckler had attacked again in another bid to solo his way to victory.
Tour de France Stage 5 Result 1 CAVENDISH Mark HTC - HIGHROAD 3h 38' 32" 2 GILBERT Philippe OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO All at same time 3 ROJAS Jose Joaquin MOVISTAR 4 GALLOPIN Tony COFIDIS 5 THOMAS Geraint SKY PROCYCLING 6 GREIPEL André OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO 7 HINAULT Sébastien AG2R LA MONDIALE 8 BONNET William FDJ 9 OSS Daniel LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 10 HUSHOVD Thor GARMIN - CERVELO 11 EVANS Cadel BMC RACING 12 KLÖDEN Andréas RADIOSHACK 13 JEANNESSON Arnold FDJ 14 O’GRADY Stuart LEOPARD-TREK 15 VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO 16 KREUZIGER Roman ASTANA 17 RUIJGH Rob VACANSOLEIL-DCM 18 WIGGINS Bradley SKY PROCYCLING 19 ROUX Anthony FDJ 20 ROCHE Nicolas AG2R LA MONDIALE Tour de France Overall Standings after Stage 5 1 HUSHOVD Thor GARMIN - CERVELO 17h 36' 57" 2 EVANS Cadel BMC RACING + 00' 01" 3 SCHLECK Frank LEOPARD-TREK + 00' 04" 4 MILLAR David GARMIN - CERVELO + 00' 08" 5 KLÖDEN Andréas RADIOSHACK + 00' 10" 6 WIGGINS Bradley SKY PROCYCLING + 00' 10" 7 THOMAS Geraint SKY PROCYCLING + 00' 12" 8 HAGEN Edvald Boasson SKY PROCYCLING + 00' 12" 9 FUGLSANG Jakob LEOPARD-TREK + 00' 12" 10 SCHLECK Andy LEOPARD-TREK + 00' 12"
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.