Cavendish wins fourth stage, eyes green jersey

BORDEAUX, France, (Reuters) – Mark Cavendish showed  he needed no help in sprint finishes when he won the 198-km 18th  stage of the Tour de France in commanding fashion yesterday.

The Briton, without lead-out man Mark Renshaw who was thrown  off the Tour for head-butting a rider towards the end of stage  11, surged mercilessly in the finale to outshine New Zealand’s  Julian Dean and Italy’s Alessandro Petacchi.

Spain’s Alberto Contador finished safe in the main bunch and  retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey with an eight-second  advantage over Andy Schleck of Luxembourg.

It was Cavendish’s fourth stage victory on this Tour and his 14th overall.

The Isle of Man rider also scored important points as he bids to become the first Briton to win the green jersey for the  best sprinter.

“I initially went when Alessandro went with 275 metres to go. I’m happy how easy I jumped on him. He went from the left  and the wind came from the left too so it kind of made the job  easy,” Cavendish said.

“Mark (Renshaw) of course I miss him a lot. This win  basically it’s for him today,” he said.

Cavendish put his troublesome early season behind him when  he won the fifth stage and looked so confident in the final  stretch on Friday that even his quest for the best sprinter’s  green jersey is no longer impossible.

“I’ve got to try to win on the Champs Elysees regardless of  the green jersey situation,” he said.

Cavendish has closed to 16 points behind Pettachi, who took  the points lead back from Norway’s Thor Hushovd who is now 10  behind the leader.

The Norwegian, the green jersey winner last year, conceded  defeat: “It’s over for the green jersey. It’s a disappointment  but that’s life. I can’t sprint like Cavendish and Petacchi on  this Tour,” he said.

Petacchi, who needs to finish at least fifth if Cavendish  wins in Paris to keep his green jersey, said it would be a hard  battle.

“It will be a hard sprint on the Champs Elysees especially  as I’m tired and suffering from a bit of bronchitis,” he said.

Contador and Schleck both preserved their energy ahead of  Saturday’s key 52-km individual time trial between Bordeaux and  Pauillac.

“Today was a rather relaxed stage even if we had to stay  cautious until the finish line,” said the Spaniard, who even  found time to offer two of his yellow jerseys to Cameron Diaz  and Tom Cruise, who followed the stage in a Tour car.

“I’d never seen a thing like that before. I went to the  Olympics but this is one of the most spectacular events I had  the chance to see,” said Diaz, in France to promote the Knight  and Day film in which she stars alongside Cruise.

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