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Page last updated at 15:17 GMT, Wednesday, 9 July 2008 16:17 UK

Cavendish claims maiden stage win

TOUR DE FRANCE (5-27 July)
BBC coverage: Daily text commentary, reports and gallery on the BBC Sport website and live audio commentary from BBC Radio 5 Live

Mark Cavendish
Cavendish celebrates on the podium after his stunning victory

Britain's Mark Cavendish claimed his first Tour de France stage victory after a thrilling sprint finish.

The 23-year-old beat Spaniard Oscar Freire and German Erik Zabel in a bunch sprint to become the first Briton since David Millar in 2002 to win a stage.

Stefan Schumacher retained the overall leader's yellow jersey, while Millar remains in third, 12 seconds behind.

"It's the biggest thing to have happened to me and to do it so young, it's a massive thing," said Cavendish.

"I came here with the intention of winning one (stage), I would have gone home disappointed if I hadn't."

Cavendish, who rides for the Columbia team, has been making his mark on the cycling world this year.

Earlier this year the Manxman won two stages of the Giro d'Italia and in August he heads out to Beijing as part of Team GB's Olympic cycling squad.

The 23-year-old will partner Bradley Wiggins in the men's Madison and, having won the event at the World Championships in 2005 and 2008, is widely tipped to return home with a medal.

I think there's still a mentality in Great Britain, where people don't appreciate they have people that are so good

Mark Cavendish
In fact, his Olympic commitments could mean that Cavendish does not complete this year's Tour de France and he could pull out once the race enters the mountains.

Wednesday's 232km (144.2 mile) stage from Cholet to Châteauroux was the longest in this year's Tour and was led almost from start to finish by three breakaway riders.

The French trio of Lilian Jegou, Florent Brard and national champion Nicolas Vogondy opened up a gap of more than eight minutes, which was slowly whittled away by the chasing peloton.

Vogondy broke away from his compatriots in the final 1.5km, only to be overhauled by the sprinters around 30 metres from the line.

Cavendish, who was led out by his German team-mate Gerald Ciolek, held off late attacks from Thor Hushovd, Freire and Zabel, and pulled away from his rivals in the final metres to claim glory after almost five-and-a-half hours in the saddle.

Asked afterwards if he considered himself to be the fastest sprinter in the world, Cavendish said: "When you have a team like I have, it is impossible not to be the best.

"I think there's still a mentality in Great Britain, where people don't appreciate they have people that are so good.

"Although I've won quite a lot - this is my eighth victory this year and I had 11 last year - it was only a Tour victory I was still to achieve.

"The team worked selflessly and committed all week and today we had to top the podium."

Cavendish, who lies 97th overall, became only the ninth Briton to win a stage in Le Tour and the first since Millar took the stage into Beziers six years ago - Millar's win in 2003 was removed from his record at his own request when he confessed to using EPO in 2004.

BBC Radio 5 Live's Peter Slater
Millar was 50th over the line, finishing in the peloton to claim the same time as Cavendish.

Not every rider enjoyed such a straightforward day of racing.

Spain's Alejandro Valverde, who wore the yellow jersey on Sunday and Monday, crashed twice but made it home in 103rd place.

Valverde's team manager Eusebio Unzue said: "Alejandro fell when he rode over an object on the road.

"His shoulder is hurting and he's got grazes on his forearm and his elbow, but for now we're not treating it as too serious.

"First he will see the team doctor and then, if needed, we will go to hospital to check things out."

Valverde is likely to continue on Thursday but Colombian climber Juan Mauricio Soler has become the first major casualty of this year's race after being forced to retire.

Soler, who won Le Tour's King of the Mountains category in 2007, had struggled on after fracturing a wrist in the opening stage on Saturday.

But the 25-year-old crashed again in the neutral zone just before the start on Wednesday and pulled out 11km (6.8 miles) after leaving Cholet.

Stage five results:

1. Mark Cavendish (UK/Team Columbia) 5:27:52

2. Oscar Freire (Spain/Rabobank) same time

3. Erik Zabel (Germany/Team Milram) same time

4. Thor Hushovd (Norway/Credit Agricole) same time

5. Baden Cooke (Australia/Barloworld) same time

6. Robbie Hunter (South Africa/Barloworld) same time

7. Leonardo Duque (Colombia/Cofidis) same time.

8. Robbie McEwen (Australia/Silence-Lotto) same time

9. Francesco Chicchi (Italy/Liquigas) same time

10. Julian Dean (New Zealand/Garmin Chipotle) same time

OTHER: 50. David Millar (Britain/Garmin Chipotle) same time

Overall standings (after five stages):

1. Stefan Schumacher (Germany/Gerolsteiner) 19 hours, 32 minutes, 33 seconds

2. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg/Team Columbia) +12 sec

3. David Millar (Britain/Garmin Chipotle) same time

4. Cadel Evans (Australia/Silence-Lotto) +21

5. Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland/Team CSC Saxo Bank) +33

6. Christian Vandevelde (United States/Garmin Chipotle) +37

7. George Hincapie (United States/Team Columbia) +41

8. Thomas Lovkvist (Sweden/Team Columbia) +47

9. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy/Liquigas) +58

10. Ivan Gutierrez (Spain/Caisse d'Epargne) + 1:01

OTHER: 97. Mark Cavendish (UK/Columbia) + 5:58

Points (after stage five of 21):

1. Thor Hushovd (Norway/Credit Agricole) 88 points

2. Oscar Freire (Spain/Rabobank) 85

3. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg/Columbia) 81

4. Erik Zabel (Germany/Milram) 72

5. Robert Hunter (South Africa/Barloworld) 60

OTHER: 6. Mark Cavendish (UK/Columbia) 51

see also
Tour de France stage five photos
09 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Cavendish ready to step up
04 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Tour de France 2008 preview
02 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Hoy extends GB gold haul to nine
29 Mar 08 |  Cycling
Cycling on the BBC
11 Jul 08 |  Cycling

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