Mark Cavendish sprinted to his 30th Tour de France win and fourth this year with another supreme performance on stage 14 as Chris Froome retained the overall lead.
Cavendish of Dimension Data breezed past Marcel Kittel of Etixx – Quick-Step at the start of the sprint and then held off runner-up Alexander Kristoff riding for Katusha and third-placed Peter Sagan of Tinkoff by a bike’s length in Villars-les-Dombes. Brief doubt was cast over the win when Kittel complained that Cavendish had cut across his racing line after flying past, but the jury saw no wrongdoing and the result stood.
The victory leaves Cavendish just four short of Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34 Tour stage wins, and he could have an opportunity to close the gap to three on Monday’s 16th stage into Bern. Team Sky’s Froome, meanwhile, finished safely in the peloton in 60th place to remain 1min 47sec ahead of second-placed Bauke Mollema of Trek-Segafredo and 2min 45sec in front of third-placed Adam Yates of Orica-BikeExchange at the top of the general classification.
Stage 14 started in Montelimar and covered 208.5km of mostly flat terrain, but the race fell well behind schedule as the riders struggled in a 35kmh headwind for much of the day. Although Dimension Data did much of the pace-setting in the final few kilometres, Cavendish opted to jump on to Kittel’s wheel in the final 1km and was consequently perfectly placed when the German was first to launch his sprint.
Cavendish immediately followed and made light work of surging past, only to then swerve slightly right and force the beaten Kittel to throw his arm in the air in protest. He then held off late surges from both Kristoff and Sagan to continue what is now his most prolific Tour since 2011.
The Tour continues tomorrow with a mountainous, 160km 15th stage from Bourg-en-Bresse to Culoz
Stage 14 result
1 Mark Cavendish (GB) Dimension Data, 5:43:49
2 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha, same time
3 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff, st
4 John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Alpecin, st
5 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx – Quick-Step, st
6 Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal, st
7 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie, st
8 Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre-Merida, st
9 Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, st
10 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, st
1 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, 63:46:40
2 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, +1:47
3 Adam Yates (GB) Orica-BikeExchange, +2:45
4 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +2:59
5 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, +3:17
6 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing, +3:19
7 Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +4:04
8 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, +4:27
9 Dan Martin (Irl) Etixx – Quick-Step, +5:03
10 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, +5:16