Cavendish takes Tour De France stage win

Great Britain's Mark Cavendish today scorched to the 16th Tour de France stage win of his career before hinting at the demons which lie beneath his combustible personality.

Great Britain's Mark Cavendish today scorched to the 16th Tour de France stage win of his career before hinting at the demons which lie beneath his combustible personality.

The 26-year-old from the Isle of Man came from behind to belatedly open his 2011 Tour account on the crash-strewn 164.5-kilometres fifth stage from Carhaix to Cap Frehel on the Brittany coast in a time of three hours 38 minutes and 32 seconds.

Ireland's Nicolas Roche finished in the chasing pack on the same time, and now lies in 24th place, one minute and 12 seconds behind race leader Thor Hushovd of Team Garmin - Cervelo.

Cavendish, who is reportedly set to join Team Sky at the expiry of his HTC-Highroad contract, came off the wheel of fellow Briton Geraint Thomas before accelerating around to take the win ahead of Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), who inherited the green jersey from previous incumbent Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar), who finished third.

Cavendish later compared the surprise win with his 2009 success in Aubenas, dedicated his win to his recently-deceased dog, accused former team-mate Andre Greipel of striking him and rebuked a journalist for a factually inaccurate question.

In an interview with French television, Cavendish also pointed to his head and said: "Most of my problems are in here.

"But once I get settled I'm normally all right and it gets easier.

"I'm just passionate about the sport. I just love to win.

"Maybe people don't like my character so they try to do things not in a sporting way by disqualifying me or taking points from me."

Cavendish was later asked to expand on his point, but stopped short.

He added: "If I go into that, we won't get out of here tonight. But it's what makes me tick."

It was an interesting end to a hectic day which saw RadioShack leader Janez Brajkovic taken to hospital with concussion and a suspected fractured collar bone after crashing out of the Tour and Nicki Sorensen, the Danish champion, pulled down by a photographer's motorbike.

Sorensen's team leader Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) and Team Sky's Bradley Wiggins were among those also to fall, while Tom Boonen (QuickStep) had a heavy tumble on the tarmac and suffered for much of a day which saw Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) retain the race leader's yellow jersey.

The finale along narrow, undulating roads was always going to be challenging and so it proved, with numerous attacks attempted and foiled as the stage ended in a sprint finish.

Cavendish was supported by team-mates Matt Goss and Tony Martin before rounding Thomas and sealing victory. It was a move which could become common in 2012.

Cavendish added: "It was a difficult win and it was one I had to give 100% before. It's taken a lot out of me."

The Briton has spoken of silencing doubters in recent weeks, believing he has been written off.

He added: "It's always sweet to silence ignoramuses.

"They know who they are. It will happen again."

If there are any doubters of his ability, it is perhaps in relation to the Manxman's bid for the points classification's green jersey.

Despite six wins in 2009 and five in 2010, Cavendish has fallen short and after five stages of the 2011 Tour he sits in fourth in the race for the maillot vert, 36 points behind Gilbert.

Cavendish would perhaps be closer had he not been impeded at the day's intermediate sprint by Rojas and Boonen, who were later punished and docked points.

It was of little consolation for Cavendish, who eased up after being squeezed to the side of the road and rolled over well down the field.

Cavendish, who on Monday was penalised for an infringement at the intermediate sprint, added: "All I ask for is consistency, otherwise it becomes a personal thing against me in my opinion."

Cavendish suggested he will have to rest in the coming days following his effort in the finale, but tomorrow's 226.5km stage from Dinan to Lisieux and Friday's 218km stage from Le Mans to Chateauroux are likely to end in sprint finishes and he could add to his prolific record.

Chateauroux is where Cavendish recorded his first Tour stage success in 2008.

World champion Hushovd finished 10th today to retain a one-second lead over Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) as the top of the overall rankings were largely unchanged.

Hushovd did not expect Cavendish to be in contention in the finishing straight.

The Norwegian said: "I raced in the front to defend the jersey and also so I didn't have any risks and with 250 or 300 metres to go.

"I ended up in the front and I said to myself, 'OK, try'.

"But it was too long and I really didn't have the legs today to do a good sprint.

"It was a sprint for the strong guys and I'm impressed that Cavendish was able to get up there and take the win."

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