'Cav' does a Tour double as Kirchen keeps yellow
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Saturday, July 12, 2008

'Cav' does a Tour double as Kirchen keeps yellow

by Agence France-Presse at 11:49 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
Britain's Mark Cavendish reinforced his claim to be the world's fastest man on two wheels by claiming his second stage win on the Tour de France here on Saturday.

Luxembourg's Kim Kirchen, also of the Columbia team, retained the race leader's yellow jersey six seconds ahead of Australian Cadel Evans ahead of Sunday's first day in the high mountains.

After a rain-lashed day of racing out of the Massif Central towards the foot of the Pyrenees Cavendish's team once again proved strongest in the final kilometres of the 172.5km eighth stage which began in Figeac.

Setting up a 'train' to help deliver Cavendish to the finish with as much punch in his legs as possible, the 23-year-old from the Isle of Man repaid their efforts with a victorious drive across the line.

In second place was Cavendish's lead-out man, former under-23 world champion Gerald Ciolek of Germany, while Frenchman Jimmy Casper took third place ahead of Spain's three-time world champion Oscar Freire.

Cavendish's maiden stage win on the Tour came in similar fashion on the fifth stage at Chateauroux, after which he claimed that with a team like his to help him, he couldn't help being the "best sprinter in the world".

Ahead of potentially race-changing stages in the Pyrenees, Columbia have become the dominant force on the Tour - a fact Cavendish was quick to confirm after their disciplined lead-out train worked again to perfection. "It was brilliant. Once again you can see how well my team performed," said Cavendish. "They nursed me back after I dropped off the back on the third category climb, they controlled the day, brought in the breakaway and then led me out excellently. "The flat run in was ideally suited for us and you can see how well Gerald did to lead me out because he took second. To hold on to the yellow jersey and to get both first and second in the stage - it can't really get any better can it?"

Ahead of two days of tough climbing in the Pyrenees, the yellow jersey battle took a virtual back seat leading the peloton gradually towards the foot of the mountains.

Early attacks were kept on a tight leash, and it took the determination of Laurent Lefevre to finally break the peloton's resistance.

After being at the front over three small climbs he was joined by Euskaltel's Amets Txurruka, Bouygues Telecom teammate Jerome Pineau and Christophe Riblon finally joined him.

But their five-minute lead at the halfway stage was eventually slashed after the Credit Agricole team of sprinter Thor Hushovd and Freire's Rabobank team took over the chase.

Only Pineau and Txurruka remained in the final 3km, after which Columbia appeared at the front to help set up their train for Cavendish, with Kirchen not far behind as he aimed to keep hold of the yellow jersey.

A late attempt by the Quick Step team of Gert Steegmans, who has yet to win a stage on this year's race, pulled up the left hand-side in the final 600 metres.

However Columbia were not to be denied. Cavendish stayed on the wheels that mattered and pulled out from behind Ciolek to seal the win.

In the melee Kirchen lost the points competition's green jersey to Freire, but for the moment the Luxemburger is enjoying his time in a more prestigious one. "It's been three days in a row in the yellow jersey, I can't believe it. All the people on the side of the road have been really good to me," said Kirchen, who on Thursday became the first cyclist from his country to wear the yellow jersey since the great Charly Gaul last wore it in 1959. "It's every rider's dream - and I've waited ten years to achieve it."

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