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Tour de France Stage 5: Carnage all the way from Carhaix as Cav wins crash-strewn stage

Brajkovic abandons after heavy fall as Boonen battles on through the pain barrier

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
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
16 KREUZIGER Roman         ASTANA
17 RUIJGH Rob              VACANSOLEIL-DCM
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"

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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