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By Andrew Hood
Stage 5, Cholet to Châteauroux, 232km
Weather: Partly cloudy in the morning, warm and sunny in afternoon, moderate westerly breeze with 20kph, highs in the low 80s
Stage winner: Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia) confirmed his place as cycling’s best new young sprinter after fending off experienced veterans Thor Hushovd and Erik Zabel to claim his first Tour stage. A three-man breakaway was only caught in the final 100 meters, and Cavendish sprang off Gerard Ciolek’s wheel to finish off great work by the team. The Cannonball has landed: “They say you’re not a great sprinter until you win a sprint in the Tour. That was my goal and now I’ve done it,” Cav said.
Yellow jersey: Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) enjoyed his first full day in the maillot jaune. Gerolsteiner rode at the front of the pack and later got some help from Columbia as it came in for the sprint. There were no changes in the GC as the pack roared into Châteauroux for the sprint, with Schumacher defending his 18-second lead to Kim Kirchen (Columbia) and David Millar (Garmin-Chipotle). “I really enjoyed this yellow jersey today. The team was motivated to protect it. We’ll see about tomorrow. I am feeling strong right now, but the GC is very tight,” Schumi said.
Green jersey: Thor Husvhod (Crédit Agricole) recaptured the points lead after sprinting to fourth. Overnight leader Kim Kirchen (Columbia) slipped to third, with Hushovd now holding a 88-85 lead to Oscar Freire (Rabobank), with Kirchen third with 81 points. “I won the green jersey in 2005, so that’s one of the big goals for this year’s Tour. It’s easier to win the green jersey when you’re winning stages – that was the goal today. I’ve worked on my climbing to get over the mountains because there is more climbing in this year’s Tour,” Hushovd said.
King of the Mountains: With no rated climbs, Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) leads Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), 19-11. Thursday’s summit finish at Super-Besse should liven up the race for the polka-dot jersey.
Most aggressive rider: Nicolas Vogondy (Agritubel) won the day’s prize, with the eight-man jury declaring: “He had the courage to attack in Cholet when it seemed inevitable that the sprinters would rule. The trio conserved the energy wisely, which allowed him to attack with 2km to go. He was caught with 100 meters to go.”
Best Young Rider: Cavendish won the day’s honors while Thomas Lovkvist (Columbia) finished safely in the main pack to retain the white jersey, 11 seconds ahead of Vicenzo Nibali (Liquigas). “We worked hard for Mark today because we knew he could win a stage. This is huge for our team. We’ve had three second places in four stages, so we really wanted to win today,” Lovkvist said.
Best team: Barloworld won the stage and Garmin-Chipotle retained its hold on the team GC, 1:44 ahead of Columbia with CSC-Saxo Bank third at 2:35 back.
Top American: George Hincapie (Columbia) finished 43rd in the main pack after helping drove home the sprint to catch three escapees just 100 meters from the line. Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Chipotle) remains sixth overall with Hincapie seventh, respectively, at 37 and 41 seconds back.
Lanterne Rouge: Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner) finished last at 6:30 back after crashing with about 4km to go, just outside the 3km rule. Vim Vansevenant (Silence-Lotto) remains last at 20:05 back.
The peloton: Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) pulled out at 12km after scans Monday confirmed a fracture in his right wrist; 177 riders remain.
Medical report: Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne), crash at 87km, cuts and scrapes to right elbow, knee and lower leg; Gadret (Ag2r-La Mondiale), crash at 87km, cuts and scrapes to elbow, knee and left hip; Forster (Gerolsetiner), digestive troubles; Passeron (Saunier Duval), crash at 226km, back pain and abdominal contractions, transferred to local hospital after stage for further exams; Haussler (Gerolsteiner), crash at 228km, various cuts and scrapes.
Jury report: No report.
Forecast: Continued warm, sunny, highs in the 80s, chance of afternoon showers