Result: Mark Cavendish won the 18th stage of the Tour de France, a 226 km ride between Blagnac and Brive-La-Gaillarde, to claim his 22nd victory on the race today. Sky teammate and British compatriot Bradley Wiggins came over the finish line seconds later with his 2min 05sec overall lead on Chris Froome intact.
How it happened: After holding off the final challenge of Vincenzo Nibali yesterday, Bradley Wiggins led the cyclists out, resplendant in his yellow jersey. A stray dog caused carnage in the early stages and a breakaway group of 16 riders pushed almost five minutes clear before being slowly reeled back in by the peloton. Green jersey hopefuls praying for a sprint finish looked like getting their wish when the leaders were gobbled up in swatches of two and threes.
Adam Hansen and Ireland’s Nicolas Roche pulled clear of a five-man group and looked like making it a duel before they were caught by Team Sky – including Wiggins, who was racing hard to give teammate Cavendish the chance for a sprint win. The Manx Missile burst pasty a dogged Roche with 400m to go to claim the win ahead of Matt Goss and Peter Sagan. Roche finished in fifth.
Big winner: Wiggins must feature each day that he nears the Sunday cruise into Paris but he gets a lot of credit for cycling hard to put Cavendish into position to win. Roche comes out with a lot of credit too as he rode superbly again.
Who is wearing what jersey?
- Yellow (Overall): Bradley Wiggins
- Green (Points): Peter Sagan
- Polka-Dot (Mountains): Thomas Voeckler
- White (Young Rider): Tejay Van Garderen
What about the Irish? Roche, as mentioned above, was determination personified today and just needed an extra 10 seconds to hold off Cavendish for a deserved stage win. He gained a few seconds on those around him but remains 11th overall. Daniel Martin finished down mid-pack in 61st but climbs one place in the general classification to 35th overall.
What happens tomorrow then? The 53.5km time-trial from Bonneval/Chartres will give Wiggins a chance to extend his lead, although Froome pushed him hard earlier on in the tour.