Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) won Wednesday’s stage 11 of the 2011 Tour de France, a 168km sprinters’ stage that concluded in Lavaur, the final stage before the Tour enters the Pyrenees on Thursday.
It was the third stage win of this Tour for the Manxman and the 18th career Tour stage. Tuesday’s stage winner Andre Greipel was second and American Tyler Farrar was third.
Race leader Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) finished in the lead group to retain his yellow jersey.
Cavendish’s stage win put him in the green jersey as the points leader.
“It’s incredible to have the green jersey, it’s the most beautiful jersey in the world,” said Cavendish.”It’s everything I wanted when I came here this year.”
Voeckler will wear the jersey at the start Thursday, but is not optimistic about keeping it after what should be a thrilling 211km of racing.
“It was quite a stressful day but we kept the yellow jersey so it finished well,” said Voeckler. “If we lose the yellow jersey tomorrow then we’ll do so knowing that we gave it everything. But to be honest, I fully expect to lose it tomorrow.”
The stage 11 route included two categorized climbs, the cat. 3 Cote de Tonnac and the cat. 4 Cote de Puylaurens. However, the route’s long, wide, straight descent into Lavaur marked it as a stage for the sprinters and their leadout trains.
After a rainy start, it took 17km before a break formed that was palatable to the big teams. The best-placed rider in the six-man group was Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Ruben Perez, who started the day in 83rd place, at 30:41. The other escapees: Tristan Valentin (Cofidis); Mickaël Delage (Fdj); Lars Boom (Rabobank); Andriy Grivko (Astana); and Jimmy Engoulvent (Saur-Sojasun).
The rain got heavier mid-way through the race. The peloton allowed the break a gap of little more than four minutes.
The breakaway did not contest the intermediate sprint, which was won by Delage. Mark Cavendish grabbed the seventh place points after a field sprint.
The catch and the run-in
Garmin and HTC-Highroad began the chase in earnest approaching the Côte de Puylaurens, and trimmed the lead down to under. Up front, former world cyclocross champion Boom was taking some monster pulls, but the gap was down to 1.5 minutes at the top of the climb.
As the rain poured down, the chase stalled somewhat, to the benefit of the breakaway, which still had a 50-second lead with 15k to go. HTC, Sky and Garmin knuckled down to haul the group back.
As the pack closed to within 15 seconds with 5k to go, Boom launched a powerful attack and held off the pack for another 3k.
Garmin, HTC and Sky battled to control the front in the final 2k, but there was no holding back Cavendish, who came off of Renshaw’s wheel for the stage win and the green jersey. Out-kicking Tuesday’s winner Greipel and Farrar was especially gratifiying.
“I have to thank my teammates for the work they did today, even the guys who are in the top ten overall gave it 100 percent and that shows what a great team we are.”
Cavendish said Greipel’s sprint Tuesday was one of the “most technically perfect” he had seen.
“It was technically perfect,” he said. “But at dinner last night I spoke with the team and said to them I planned to go out and win tomorrow (Wednesday), it’s as simple as that.”
As for Greipel, he also was satisfied with his sprint, especially, he claimed, after Frenchman Romain Feillu tried to barge his lead-out man Jurgen Roelandts off the road.
“There was a big problem with Feillu. He deliberately tried to put Roelandts off the road,” said the German.
“That’s why it was such a long sprint, and also dangerous. But I’m happy with my second place today.”
Thursday’s stage 12 is the first foray into the Pyrenees. The 211km (131 mile) stage concludes with three huge climbs, the 10km Cat. 1 Hourquette d’Ancizan as a warm-up; the familiar 17km hors-cat (above-category) Tourmalet; and the 13km hors-cat finale to the mountaintop finish at Luz-Ardiden.
“I’m happy that these nervous kinds of stages are over and that we can now hit the mountains,” Andy Schleck said. “It’s a sense of relief to change to the small ring. We’re in our terrain now.”
- 1. Mark Cavendish, Htc – Highroad, in 3h 46′ 07
- 2. André Greipel, Omega Pharma – Lotto, at s.t.
- 3. Tyler Farrar, Team Garmin – Cervelo, at s.t.
- 4. Denis Galimzyanov, Katusha Team, at s.t.
- 5. Boasson Hagen Edvald, Sky Procycling, at s.t.
- 1. Thomas Voeckler, Team Europcar, in 45h 52′ 39
- 2. Luis-leon Sanchez, Rabobank Cycling Team, at 1:49
- 3. Cadel Evans, Bmc Racing Team, at at 02:26
- 4. Frank Schleck, Team Leopard-Trek, at at 02:29
- 5. Andy Schleck, Team Leopard-Trek, at at 02:37