Cycling: Cavendish wins another stage

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The Independent Online

Mark Cavendish claimed his second consecutive Tour de France stage win today, producing another perfect sprint finish to keep hold of the green jersey.

Cavendish, of Team Columbia-HTC, followed up yesterday's victory to claim the 196.5km stage three from Marseille to La Grande-Motte ahead of Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam) and Cyril Lemoine (Skil-Shimano).

Cavendish was part of a 27-man group, which included overall leader Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) and Lance Armstrong, but not his Astana team-mate and Tour favourite Alberto Contador, who pulled away in the closing 30km.

Cancellara, who finished sixth in the same time as the leading trio, maintains the yellow jersey, 33 seconds clear of Tony Martin (Columbia) and 40 clear of Armstrong in the general classification.

Contador, who finished 49th, some 41 seconds back, is now 59 seconds off the pace, while Britain's Bradley Wiggins is fifth, a minute behind Cancellara.

It proved hard work for Columbia today as, with tomorrow's team time-trial stage looming, riders attempted to conserve energy.

Cavendish, who becomes the first Briton to hold the green jersey for two days in a row, told Eurosport: "It was like junior racing sometimes. Everybody's nervous about the team time trial tomorrow I think so we were the only team who were willing to take it on. What a way to stick it to them.

"It was closer than it was yesterday. Thor's one of the best sprinters on the planet. Again Mark Renshaw did everything right to launch me perfect and I was able to finish it off.

"I'm just taking the victory for the team. The small group was caused by my team riding 100%."

The day started with Belgium's Jurgen van de Walle becoming the first rider to leave the Tour, pulling out before today's stage after suffering a broken collarbone in a fall yesterday.

Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis) and Maxime Bouet (FDJ) made an early breakaway, with Ruben Perez Moreno (UCI ProTour) and Koen de Kort (Skil-Shimano) subsequently joining them, quickly pulling six minutes clear of the peloton.

The field was slow to respond to the breakaway quartet, who stretched their lead past 11 minutes before a response finally came at around the halfway mark.

In red-hot conditions in Provence, when the lead did start to reduce, it did so quickly and was down to around eight minutes as they began the climb up the Col de la Vayede.

The gap continued to lessen as the riders passed the city of Arles and through the Camargue regional park.

Saxo Bank's Marzio Bruseghin suffered a gashed knee in a crash amid the pack as the lead came down further with 50km to go.

And the lead evaporated completely just inside 30km, the plucky De Kort the last of the breakaway quartet to finally fade away as the lead chasing group, which included Cancellara and Armstrong, hauled them in.

That group, which also included all of Cavendish's Columbia team but not Contador, then pulled away, establishing a lead of 30 seconds with 10km to go.

The pack were able to make no impact as the leaders entered the closing stages, and Cavendish again stormed through to claim the sixth stage win of his career.