Cavendish claims second stage win in as many days

SAINT-FARGEAU: Mark Cavendish won the 11th stage of the Tour de France today 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 192-kilometer trek from Vatan to Saint-Fargeau. Yauheni Hutarovich of Belarus finished the stage in third place.

Cavendish, winner of four stages in last year’s Tour, took the green jersey for best sprinter from Thor Hushovd of Norway, who finished fifth. 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.

Cavendish, meanwhile, will defend the green jersey on another flat stage on Thursday before the race heads into a medium mountain stage on Friday. He failed to complete last year’s race. Two early crashes saw several riders fall, and gave Belgian rider Johan Van Summeren and Marcin Sapa of Poland the opportunity to break away after about 30 kilometers. They were eventually caught by the chasing pack, led by the Team Columbia-High Road riders, about five kilometers from the finish. The Columbia team worked well together at the front, just as they did on Tuesday, to get Cavendish in the best position to attack in the closing stages. But Farrar pushed hard in the final meters and almost caught the British rider.