Cavendish Takes Second Win of 2011 Tour de France; Crashes Decimate Peloton
Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) has taken his second stage of the 2011 Tour de France.
Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) has taken his second stage of the 2011 Tour de France. The Manx missile took a bunch sprint to snare Stage 7, a flat, crash-marred, 218-km run from Le Mans to Chateauroux, in 5:38:53. Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) finished second, and Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) finished third. Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) remains the maillot jaune.
The early part of the stage was ridden in the rain. The precipitation, however, did not dampen the riders' aggression. In the opening km, Yannick Talabardon (Saur-Sojasun) and Mickael Delage and Gianni Meersman (both from Francaise des Jeux) escaped. Later, Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi) joined the trio. The quartet led the field by eight minutes at 45 km.
A westerly wind enabled the peloton to keep the fugitives from getting too far away from them. At 90 km, Tom Boonen (Quick Step) abandoned as a result of injuries suffered in a Stage 5 crash. In the final third of the stage, HTC-Highroad and Garmin-Cervélo chased, and the escapees' lead dropped.
With 48 km left, the first of several crashes occurred. No one was badly hurt, but Roman Kreuziger (Astana), Tony Gallopin (Cofidis), and Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack) had to chase hard to get back on. Eight km later, however, much worse took place.
With 40 km left, a crash occurred in the middle of the peloton. Dozens of riders hit the asphalt in a scene that Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) described as "a house of cards." Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo), Leipheimer, Alexander Vinokourov (Astana), Bradley Wiggins (Sky), and Chris Horner (RadioShack) were among those who, in the words of a Rabobank report on Wednesday, were "involuntarily acquainted with the asphalt." Leipheimer lost three minutes, while the most seriously injured were Wiggins, who abandoned with a broken collarbone, and Horner, who suffered a concussion and a broken nose.
Ahead, Garmin-Cervelo and Leopard-Trek drove the peloton. With 14 km left, the bunch reeled in the break.
In the final km, HTC-Highroad led the lead group. Petacchi and Hushovd were behind Cavendish. With 200 m left, Greipel jumped, but Cavendish powered into the lead and held off Petacchi and Greipel. Horner finished two minutes behind the lead group, and Leipheimer finished in a 80-strong group at 3:06.
After the crash-marred flat stages, the riders will probably be relieved to take on a medium mountain stage that will break up the field. Stage 8, an uphill, 189-km ride from Aigurance to Super Besse Sancy, will feature four categorized climbs, including the Category 2 Col de la Croix Saint-Robert at 164 km and the Category 3 ascent to the finish. Look for Hushovd to lose the yellow jersey. To whom will he lose it? Cadel Evans (BMC)? Frank Schleck (Leopard-Trek)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and www.roadcycling.mobi to find out!