Mark Cavendish burst into the lead in the final few hundred meters for an exciting end to Stage 6 of the Tour de France. American Tyler Farrar finished second. Tomorrow brings the first mountain stage.
The amateur cyclists who enjoy Burgundy, with its flat roads and towns that offer ample opportunities for shade and cool drinks, got an extra treat today.
Stage 6 of the Tour de France whirled into the small Burgundy town of Gueugnon, ending in an exciting sprint.
For the second straight day, it was British speedster Mark Cavendish who nabbed victory at the line.
With just a few hundred meters to go, he burst ahead of American Tyler Farrar, Team Garmin-Transition’s sprint specialist who held on to second place – improving on his 10th place yesterday.
After his breakthrough win yesterday – Cavendish has been beset by on and off-bike problems all year – the Briton emotionally unburdened himself to the press. Today the 25-year-old shined the spotlight on his HTC-Columbia teammates.
“I had seven guys who did an incredible job today,” he told reporters after the race.
It was the 12th Tour stage win of his career, but for a while during today’s 141-mile stage – the Tour’s longest this year – it looked like a sprint might not come together.
Three riders broke away shortly after the departure from Montargis. But they ran out of gas with fewer than six miles left.
They gave way to the oncoming peloton, led by Cavendish’s HTC-Columbia team, who worked hard in the final kilometers to deliver him to the win.
Once again, the overall standings remain unchanged after today's stage, since the top riders finished so close together.
SaxoBank’s Fabian Cancellara is still wearing the yellow jersey and defending champion Alberto Contador of Astana – favored to win – remains 1 minute and 40 seconds behind. RadioShack’s Lance Armstrong is in 18th place, 2 minutes and 30 seconds off the lead.
Though today’s stage featured four short climbs, it was clearly a final opportunity for the sprinters to show their wares this week.
The climbers get their chance to shine tomorrow as the Tour heads east to the ski town of Les Rousses, nestled in the Jura Mountains near the Swiss border.
After a rough week, the rest of the field will look simply to survive until they arrive in Morzine, France, at the end of Sunday's Stage 8. Monday is the first of two rest days during the three-week Tour.
“We hope we can get into [Morzine] with enough left in the tank,” Cavendish’s teammate Bernhard Eisel told the Monitor. “We can recharge there.”