TOUR DE FRANCE
Cavendish Wins Stage, Armstrong Still Third Overall
SAINT-FARGEAU, France, July 15 -- Mark Cavendish won the 11th stage of the Tour de France on Wednesday, while Rinaldo Nocentini of Italy held on to the yellow jersey and Lance Armstrong remained third overall.
Armstrong finished safely in the main pack, with his Astana teammate Alberto Contador narrowly ahead of him in second place overall after Wednesday's 119-mile trek from Vatan to Saint-Fargeau.
Nocentini leads Contador by six seconds and Armstrong trails by eight.
"I feel in very good shape," Nocentini said. "I hope to keep the yellow jersey."
Nocentini was among the riders who fell in two early crashes, giving Belgian rider Johan Van Summeren and Marcin Sapa of Poland the opportunity to break away after 18.7 miles.
"I was in a fall, but nothing too serious. I didn't hurt myself," Nocentini said. "I managed to get back up and finish calmly."
Cavendish sealed his second straight stage win and fourth of the Tour. The British cyclist finished about half a bike length ahead of American Tyler Farrar in a sprint finish on a flat stage. The 24-year-old Cavendish finished in 4 hours 17 minutes 55 seconds.
Armstrong, who did not stop for reporters after the stage, finished in 54th place. Contador was 43rd.
"Fast start, crashes a plenty, then a breakaway," Armstrong wrote on his Twitter feed. "Ended up being pretty relaxed. Cav wins again. . . . Congrats to him."
Cavendish took the green jersey from Thor Hushovd of Norway, who finished fifth, and equaled British rider Barry Hoban's career tally of eight Tour stage wins.
"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 will defend the green jersey on another flat stage Thursday, a 131-mile trek from Tonnerre to Vittel featuring six small hills. The course again favors sprinters, and time differences are unlikely to be significant among the top three.
Armstrong's rivalry with Contador could be reignited Friday, with a small opportunity for an attack on one tough climb up the Col du Platzerwasel. However, such an attack will likely be more effective in Sunday's 15th stage -- which features a tough uphill ride to Verbier.
The early leaders were eventually caught by the chasing pack, led by the Team Columbia-High Road riders, some three miles from the finish.
The Columbia team worked well together at the front, just as they did Tuesday, to get Cavendish in the best position to attack in the closing stages.
-- From News Services