Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) won stage 5 of the Tour de France on Wednesday.
Cavendish was led out by his team in the final 10 kilometers and cruised across the finish line. He has now won 24 stages at the Tour de France.
Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) finished second in the 228.5-kilometer stage from Cagnes-sur-Mer to Marseille, while Peter Sagan (Cannondale) placed third.
As the sprinters crossed the finish line, a large crash occurred just behind them in the main field. A wall of bikes and riders prevented most everyone from getting through immediately after it happened. The incident left no visible casualties but delayed several, including German Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), the winner of stage 1, and Orica’s main sprinter Matthew Goss.
“A BMC rider came down just in front of me and I could do nothing to avoid him,” said Kittel.
For his part, Cavendish was thrilled to get his first win in the 100th edition of the race, taking him to 24 career Tour victories.
“It’s been a little bit frustrating,” Cavendish said of not winning a stage in this year’s race until today. “But we were motivated today. I was quite happy to ride at the front today. We could see behind.
“I’m super happy, really, really happy. Now the pressure’s kind of off.”
Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) maintained his lead in the GC. In second and third are his teammates Daryl Impey and Michael Albasini.
“Today we had two objectives,” Gerrans told AFP. “To try and win the stage and keep the yellow jersey within the team. Matt Goss got distanced on the final climb but I still have the yellow jersey on my shoulders and I managed to stay up the front and stay out of trouble.”
As the peloton tried to bridge the gap between four leaders in the final 15km, Omega Pharma assumed control of the field and pushed the pace. Leading the charge was the big engine of Tony Martin, who was pulling the group as it hit speeds of more than 50 kph on the flat road.
As the kilometers ticked off, Cavendish positioned himself in the back of the leadout train, seven wheels back. One by one, his teammates pulled off. The peloton swallowed up the last of the break with 5km left and at that point, it was organized chaos at the front of the peloton.
Cavendish seemed to be boxed in with 2km remaining, but he followed teammate Gert Steegmans through an opening on the left side of the road and got himself back at the front. He started his sprint and pushed forward with 150 meters left. Boasson Hagen, Sagan, and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) chased him but could not match the Manxman’s finishing speed.
“Gert took me in at such a speed and I just kept that speed going. I only had to accelerate in the final 150 meters. I’m super happy with that,” Cavendish told AFP. “I’m still not 100 percent after being ill last week. But it’s good to get the account open here at the Tour de France. The morale is good in the team and the only way to make it better is by winning more stages.”
Six riders — Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM), Yukiya Arashiro (Europcar), Kévin Reza (Europcar), Romain Sicard (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) and Anthony Delaplace (Sojasun) — escaped from the main field early in the stage and rode out front. Their advantage over the peloton reached upwards of 10 minutes at times, but the peloton slowly reeled in the group.
Late in the stage as the bumpy route took its toll on the riders, the lead group was reduced to four.
A number of teams, including Lotto-Belisol, Astana, and Orica-GreenEdge, took turns riding at the front of the peloton as they tried to bridge the gap to the leaders. Eventually they were caught with 5km left.
The race picks up with Thursday’s stage 6, a 176.5km route from Aix-en-Provence to Montpellier that is expected to end in a sprint.