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TDF’11 St.11: One Last Day For The Sprinters
It just had to happen - a bunch sprint that is. With the Pyrenees beginning tomorrow, Stage 11 was always going to be one of the final chances of this year's Tour de France for the sprinters. With so few opportunities remaining over the next week and a half, the sprinters made sure to take advantage of the opportunity.

Stage 11: Blaye-les-Mines - Lavaur 168km

The sprinters wanted a bunch kick, sure, but a high-powered break made sure they had to work very, very hard for it to happen.

The break? Six lucky wattage cottages: Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskaltel), Lars Boom (Rabobank), Andriy Grivko (Astana), Mickael Delage (FdJ), Tristan Valentin (Cofidis), and Jimmy Engoulvent (Saur-Sojasun).

The six hard working riders of the day's break.

It's pretty simple from here - break's gap goes up, up, up, HTC-Highroad puts riders on the front, rides tempo, stabilizes gap, slowly begins to bring gap down, and finally, at some point, the break's glorious time out front comes to an end, and we enjoy a sprint...theoretically won by Mark Cavendish.

The break wouldn't capitulate though. Despite the impetus at the front of the field, the break held on tenaciously, pouring on the power, everyone working in sync, no gamesmanship.

With the break's cooperation holding strong late into the game, the chasing field, led of course by HTC-Highroad, had to work even harder. The result? Bernhard Eisel on the front of the group with six kilometers to go hitting it hard. The Highroad game was clear - make sure the break was brought to heel, Cavendish could fend for himself when the time comes (they did better than that though).

There was a bit of rain today...

But then Highroad got a gift from the heavens in the form of fuchsia and blue: Lampre! Alessandro Petacchi's boys came to the fore at a perfect moment to ensure that break came down.

However, it wasn't quite as simple as that. It never seems to be that simple at this year's Tour - Lars Boom ended the lovely peace amongst the escapees and shot out of the break with speed to spare.

Lars Boom looked strong in his bid for solo glory, but there was nothing doing against the onslaught from behind.

Boom's attack shattered the break. While the monstrously gifted Dutchman pounded his pedals with a ferocity normally reserved for the likes of Cancellara and Gilbert, the rest of the break was devoured by a focused chase.

For a moment, there was that tantalizing question: can he do it?

The answer followed a tick later…nope.

There was a price, however. Boom's move left Highroad with only two leadout guys remaining: Tony Martin and Mark Renshaw. Two kilometers to go.

Cavendish got another gift in the Garmin-Cervelo leadout, which came through hard with David Millar at the front, World Champion Thor Hushovd right on his wheel, Julian Dean, and Tyler Farrar tucked in perfectly behind.

Garmin took control, but were immediately challenged by Sky's Geraint Thomas, who rode up right next to the argyle boys. Right behind Sky? Renshaw and Cavendish. Uh oh. Thomas moved hard to the right side of the road and opened up the sprint in earnest. Unfortunately, Thomas only had the wrong two riders on his wheel...

There goes Renshaw!

Renshaw hits out hard, Cavendish follows, passes, hits wind, goes, goes, Greipel jumps from the left side of the road over to Cav's wheel, uh oh, did Cavendish go too early?

Nope. Cavendish gets it right in the rain, crosses the line all smiles and rights the wrong of yesterday's surely aggravating loss to his favorite trash talking target, Andre Greipel.

Greipel, for his part, rode another excellent sprint. Unfortunately, he started from way back and used up his potentially race winning effort just to almost get up to Cavendish's wheel. No chance.

That win was Cav's third of this year's Tour, his 18th of his career (keep in mind that win #1 came in 2008), and enough to finally get himself into the Maillot Vert for the first time in this year's Tour de France. Will he be able to hold off Philippe Gilbert's bid for green? Gilbert will have opportunities aplenty in the mountains and lumpy stages, which populate the final 10 days of racing.

That's it for the sprinters. The GC hopes (well, those that remain) will need to clock in tomorrow for the Tour's first major mountaintop finish at Luz Ardiden.

Cavendish smiles as he watches the replay on tv of his victory from moments before.

The 12th stage? It's a monster. 211 kilometers, of which, the first 120 are more or less peaceful. The final 90 are quite a different story with two Hors Categorie climbs and a Category 1. The Category 1 climb of La Hourquette d'Ancizan opens the proceedings, followed by the legendary Tourmalet, and finished off with Luz Ardiden.

Don't miss it!

Stage 11 Results
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad 3:46:07
2. Andrй Greipel (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto
3. Tyler Farrar (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo
4. Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha Team
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling
6. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre - ISD
7. Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
8. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team
9. Sйbastien Turgot (Fra) Team Europcar
10. Francisco Josй Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Movistar Team

General Classification Heading Into The Pyrenees
1. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 42:06:32
2. Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:49
3. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:02:26
4. Frдnk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:02:29
5. Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:02:37
6. Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Highroad 0:02:38
7. Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-Highroad
8. Andreas Klцden (Ger) Team RadioShack 0:02:43
9. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:02:55
10. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard Trek 0:03:08
11. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:03:36
12. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:03:37
13. Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale 0:03:45
14. Kevin De Weert (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team 0:03:47
15. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:04:01
16. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard 0:04:07
17. Thomas Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:04:22
18. Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne 0:04:52
19. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:04:53
20. Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:05:01


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