Cavendish makes it a record nine

AUBENAS: Mark Cavendish set a new British record for stage wins on the Tour de France when he sprinted to his fifth victory of this year’s Tour de France on the 19th stage here on Friday.

Cavendish, who rides for Columbia, held off green jersey rival Thor Hushovd of Norway with a wicked turn of pace in the final few hundred metres after he had been led in by teammate Tony Martin. Hushovd came second while Germany’s Gerald Ciolek of Milram was third on the 178km stage which began in Bourgoin-Jallieu and failed to produce a winning breakaway.

Ahead of Saturday’s 20th stage, which includes the 21.1km climb to the summit of the Mont Ventoux, Spaniard Alberto Contador of Astana remains the race leader with a 4min 11sec lead on Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck. Third place overall, Lance Armstrong finished just behind the sprinters to close his gap to Contador by four seconds, although the American is still over five minutes off the pace of his teammate at 5:21.

Cavendish, 24, won four stages last year and with his five from this edition it means he eclipses the previous British record of eight, held by England’s Barry Hoban, who raced in the 1960s and 70s. With a total of three climbs and the summit of the third climb only 15km from the finish this stage was not expected to produce a bunch sprint. After a nervous start a 19-man group which included pre-race contender Cadel Evans of Silence finally managed to escape the peloton and went on to build a lead of nearly three minutes.

However several teams, notably the Rabobank team of sprinter Oscar Freire, began working at the front of the chasing peloton and, on their way to an impressive average of over 46.31 km/h for the day, the breakaway was brought to heel prior to the final climb. Frenchman Laurent Lefevre of Bbox attacked near the top of the 14km climb but he was soon countered by Italy’s Alessandro Ballan of Lampre.