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Tour de France Stage 11: Slow day ends with fast win for Cavendish and early bath for Renshaw

It all comes down to the sprint as main players save themselves for the Pyrenees

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"


Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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