Mark Cavendish claimed the 29th Tour de France win of his career and third of this year’s race by sprinting to victory on stage six.
Cavendish of Dimension Data was the first rider to launch his burst for the line in Montauban and narrowly hung on to beat Etixx – Quick-Step rider Marcel Kittel into second place and fellow Briton Dan McLay of Fortuneo-Vital Concept into third. He is now out on his own in second place on the all-time list of Tour stage winners, five behind Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 and one ahead of third-placed Bernard Hinault.
Cavendish’s hopes of victory looked slim when he entered the final 1km well down the peloton and without the majority of his sprint train to lead him out. However, he shrewdly found his way on to the wheel of arch-rival Kittel and was suddenly perfectly placed with 400m to go. He launched his sprint with just under 300m left and quickly moved past Kittel, but he then began to tire and held off the German by less than half the length of a bike.McLay, meanwhile, continued his excellent debut Tour by claiming the biggest result of his career so far and his fourth top 10 of the race. The 24-year-old started the sprint on Cavendish’s wheel and although he was unable to overhaul the Manxman, he powered past the rest of the field and was only narrowly beaten into second by Kittel.
There were several one-second splits further down the peloton, but the top three overall all finished in the main portion, meaning Greg Van Avermaet of BMC Racing stays top of the general classification, 5min 11sec ahead of second-placed Julian Alaphilippe riding for Etixx – Quick-Step and 5min 13sec in front of third-placed Alejandro Valverde of Movistar.
Team Sky’s Chris Froome also finished in the main group to remain 5min 17sec down in fifth, but Alberto Contador of Tinkoff lost another second and is now 6min 39sec down in 25th overall. Cavendish’s victory also took him back to the top of the points classification, 22 points ahead of second-placed Kittel and 29 points ahead of third-placed Peter Sagan riding for Tinkoff.
The Tour continues on Friday with the first of three stages in the Pyrenees, a 162.5km ride from L’Isle-Jourdain to Lac de Payolle
Stage six result
1 Mark Cavendish (GB) Dimension Data, 4:43:48
2 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx – Quick-Step, same time
3 Dan McLay (GB) Fortuneo-Vital Concept, st
4 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha, st
5 Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, st
6 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff, st
7 Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, st
8 Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo, st
9 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie, st
10 Shane Archbold (NZ) Bora-Argon 18, st
1 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, 30:18:38
2 Julian Alaphilippe (fra) Etixx – Quick-Step, +5:11
3 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, +5:13
4 Joaquim Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha, +5:15
5 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, +5:17
6 Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Alpecin, same time
7 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, st
8 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Cannondale-Drapac, st
9 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, st
10 Dan Martin (Irl) Etixx – Quick-Step, st