VILLARS-LES-DOMBES (France) • "Manx Missile" Mark Cavendish claimed his 30th Tour de France victory and his fourth in this year's cycling race, when he left sprint rival Marcel Kittel trailing at the end of the 14th stage yesterday.
The Dimension Data rider, back in the limelight after three below-par Tours, is now four shy of the all-time stage-win record of Belgian great Eddy Merckx.
Cavendish, who had not won more than three stages on the Tour since 2011, was just too fast for the rest of the bunch, comfortably beating Norway's Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) in a bunch sprint after 208.5km of riding from Montelimar to Parc des Oiseaux.
In a long, straight finish seemingly tailor-made for powerful Kittel (Etixx), Briton Cavendish tucked in behind his rival's wheel to use the slipstream.
When he darted out to make his dash for home, there was no doubt who was going to win. Cavendish did weave a touch in front of Kittel, who sat up protesting, but by then the German was already beaten.
World champion and Green Jersey holder Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) finished strongly to take third place, while Kittel finished fifth.
The last of the early leaders, Jeremy Roy of France (FDJ) and Martin Elmiger of Switzerland(IAM), were caught with 3.4km left, shaking hands as the peloton reeled them in. Briton Chris Froome finished in the peloton to keep the race leader's Yellow Jersey ahead of Dutchman Bauke Mollema and Adam Yates of Britain.
The riders observed a minute's silence at the start with Sagan, Froome and French champion Arthur Vichot at the front of the peloton in memory of the 84 victims of the Nice attack just eight months after gunmen killed 130 people in Paris.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE