THE winning feeling returned for Mark Cavendish on the fifth stage of the Tour de France after a fraught and forgettable period on and off the bike.
The 25-year-old HTC-Columbia sprinter recorded his 11th Tour stage win in three seasons on the 187.5-kilometres stage from Epernay to Montargis, having failed to deliver in Sunday’s first stage – when he crashed – and in Wednesday’s fourth stage, as he struggled to accelerate with the finish line at his mercy.
Yesterday Cavendish returned to his customary pose – arms aloft and chest puffed out in a victory salute – as he finished ahead of his former leadout man Gerald Ciolek (Team Milram) and Team Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen, who finished third for the second successive day.
Points classification leader Thor Hushovd (Cervelo Test Team) was fifth to take 22 points and retain the green jersey – Cavendish’s stated aim before the Tour.
The Briton lies on 50 points, 52 behind Hushovd, who won the maillot vert in Paris in 2009 by 10 points from Cavendish, despite the latter’s six victories.
Cavendish has endured a torrid time since the 2009 Tour – including a near-fatal accident for his close friend Jonny Bellis, complications following dental work which delayed his start to the season, being withdrawn from the Tour de Romandie for a two-fingered salute and a crash at the Tour de Suisse.
Wednesday’s poor display came after a strong showing over the cobbles of southern Belgium and northern France – something which may have fatigued him – and he denied giving up before the finish as he was passed by 11 other riders and Alessandro Petacchi claimed his second victory of the 2010 Tour.
“I don’t know what happened yesterday – sometimes you have bad days. I did give 100%.”
Cavendish considered one question for 27 seconds. “There’s no fire without fuel, but if you put fuel in the fire it can be other people who waft it for it to get bigger,” he said.
“Unfortunately, that is what’s happened. There’s a lot of people who want to judge my personality on 30 seconds of what they see after a bike race.
“If somebody’s so ignorant to dislike me, without knowing me, they’re not worth worrying about.”
The general classification standings remained unchanged on a sweltering day south of Paris, where the temperatures soared to 40C (104F).
Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) retained the yellow jersey ahead of Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) in second and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) in third after six days of action.
Alberto Contador (Astana) stayed ninth, with Lance Armstrong (Team RadioShack) 18th. Ireland’s Nicholas Roche (AG2R-La Mondiale) remains in 11th.
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