After several, for want of a better word, 'slow' days on the Tour de France, today was a belter. Belated coverage of Stage 18 meant that we joined the race quite late on and the action was over before tea time!
The 222.5km route from Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde was undulating, with a category 3 and three category 4 climbs but a flat run in to the finish left pundits sure it would be a sprint stage.
And a sprint stage it was! Following several attempted attacks, a break of around 16 riders got away, including David Millar, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Alexander Vinokourov. At the most theY had just over two minutes gap, and the peloton weren't worried.
As one by one the escapees were swallowed up by the bunch, another attack of Vino, Nicholas Roche, Sammy Sanchez and Adam Hansen managed to take a few seconds on the peloton but a last minute dig by rOCHE to take his first Tour stage win was thwarted by the yellow jersey of Team Sky, Bradley Wiggins, taking to the front of the Mark Cavendish sprint train.
Time trial specialist Wiggins upped the pace to the extent that Cav's second man, Boasson Hagen (now back from his earlier break), could catch the back end of the break.
Roche was still digging in though, with Sanchez right behind him, and for a moment it looked as though the Irishman might take it until the World Champs jersey appeared from nowhere yet again and Cav was on Sanchez's wheel.
The Manxman powered past and took the stage with a clear victory, Peter Sagan and Matt Goss in close pursuit.
It was the 22nd Tour win for Cavendish, and in the post race interview he explained to ITV that on the the team bus, Sports Director Sean Yeates had told them it was to be an easy day. Cavendish said " I stuck my hand up and said 'please give me a chance'. They all committed to that and said we were going to make a sprint. I'm so happy, those guys who I've been riding with these last three weeks helped me out." Cav went on to explain that Bradley Wiggins and Chis Froome were the first to step forward in agreement to help him.
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