Mark Cavendish won the 11th stage of the Tour de France on Wednesday by beating Tyler Farrar in a sprint finish on a flat stage, and Rinaldo Nocentini of Italy held on to the yellow jersey.
Cavendish earned his second straight stage win and fourth of this year’s Tour. The British sprinter finished about half a bike length ahead of Farrar in the 192km trek from Vatan to Saint-Fargeau.
Cavendish’s win saw him take the green jersey and equal British rider Barry Hoban’s tally of eight Tour stage wins.
“You can talk all day about how great you are at the dinner table,” said the 24-year-old Cavendish, who finished in 4 hours, 17 minutes, 55 seconds. “Success is the biggest motivation for anyone.”
Yauheni Hutarovich of Belarus finished the stage in third place.
Cavendish, who won four stages in last year’s Tour, took the green jersey from Thor Hushovd of Norway, who finished fifth.
“I was able to get the jump on Thor and win, so it was perfect,” Cavendish said. “It was just beautiful the way the guys could adapt to the situation and deliver me to the sprint.”
Cavendish denied that the competition on Wednesday was unable to challenge him.
“[That’s] a massive, massive insult to say [the other] guys are weak,” Cavendish said. “They gave me a massive fight today and came close.”
Seven-time champion Lance Armstrong finishing safely in the main pack and remains in third place, with Astana teammate Alberto Contador narrowly ahead of him in second place overall.
The general classification stayed the same, with Nocentini leading Contador by six seconds. Armstrong trails by eight seconds.
“I feel in very good shape,” Nocentini said. “I hope to keep the yellow jersey.”
Armstrong, meanwhile, did not stop for reporters after the stage, in which he finished in 54th place. Contador was 43rd.
Yesterday’s 12th stage was a 211.5km trek from Tonnerre to Vittel featuring six small hills. The course again favored sprinters, and time differences were unlikely to be significant among the top three.
Cavendish was to defend the green jersey before the race heads into a medium mountain stage today. He failed to complete last year’s race.
Meanwhile, Armstrong’s rivalry with Contador could be reignited today, with a small opportunity for an attack on one tough climb up the Col du Platzerwasel.
However, such an attack is likely to be more effective in Sunday’s 15th stage — which features a tough uphill ride on a category 1 climb up to Verbier.
Two early crashes saw several riders fall — including Nocentini — and gave Belgian rider Johan Van Summeren and Marcin Sapa of Poland the opportunity to break away after about 30km.
“I was in a fall, but nothing too serious. I didn’t hurt myself,” Nocentini said. “We crashed after about 30km. A lot of riders fell, me also. But I managed to get back up and finish calmly.”
Cavendish had mixed feelings about equaling Hoban’s record.
“He’s a nice guy, he talks a lot to me. He’s given me some advice,” Cavendish said. “But he’s also said some things in the press that offended me a little bit. I don’t know, it’s nice to be able to be [mentioned] in the same sentence of Barry Hoban, anyway.”