Cav denied by Greipel
Consolation for Cavendish in green jersey battle
Last Updated: 12/07/11 9:54pm
Greipel (right): Denied former team-mate Cavendish in a head-to-head sprint
André Greipel edged out former teammate Mark Cavendish in a thrilling finish to stage ten at the Tour de France.
The 158 kilometres stage from Aurillac to Carmaux was run at a blistering pace throughout, none more so than at the finish after the pack came back together on the downhill sweep to the finish.
By that point Cavendish's HTC-Highroad lead-out train had been thinned out and he launched a long sprint for the line, leading the field round the final corner in Carmaux.
However Omega Pharma-Lotto's Greipel, riding in his first Tour de France, had him in his sights and cut him down in the closing stages to win by a wheel.
The duo were team-mates and outspoken rivals last season, with Greipel denied his chance to ride in cycling's biggest event by Cavendish's presence in the HTC squad.
Afterwards Greipel said: "It’s an incredible thing for me, winning a stage at the biggest race in the world.
"I could be part of the race this year. This was my goal – to win a stage – and the team supported me for that.
He added: "My team-mates gave me a really good position today so that I could save my legs for the sprint. I think I’m the happiest person in the world at the moment."
And Cavendish was magnanimous in defeat, saying: "I'm disappointed. I feel I made a mistake but Greipel beat me so there's nothing I can say about that. I'm happy for him."
He added: "I knew you couldn't see the finish until the last 150 metres to go.
"It was a flat finish so I tried to go at 250m off (Liquigas' Daniel) Oss' wheel. I went early - it wasn't too early on this type of finish.
"I didn't hesitate but I didn't commit early enough. I kind of rolled round Oss on the last corner and kicked with 170m to go and Greipel just came past and beat me."
There was consolation for Cavendish as his second place and points picked up in the day's intermediate sprint saw him cut the gap markedly on Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) in the battle for the sprinters' green jersey.
Gilbert leads on 226 points, with Rojas second on 209 and Cavendish third on 197.
As far as the yellow jersey is concerned, Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) continues to lead the way, maintaining his lead of one minute and 49 seconds to Luis León Sánchez (Rabobank), with Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) in third.
Following Monday's rest day in the Massif Central, the Tour resumed minus some big names following a fraught stage on Sunday which accounted for the hopes of Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and Jurgen van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto), among others.
Yarosolav Popovych (RadioShack), meanwhile, withdrew in the morning after reporting a fever, while Katusha's Alexandr Kolobnev has also quit the race after his positive test for the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide, a 'specified substance' prohibited in professional cycling.
However, Team Sky's Juan Antonio Flecha and Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) were remarkably able to start two days after being knocked down by a car on stage nine to Saint Flour.
Hoogerland, who was thrown into barbed wire on Sunday, said: "The only time that I really thought about stopping the Tour de France was during the two seconds that I was flying through the air.
"I think that surviving the stage today was largely mental strength - I felt better on the bike than I felt in bed or walking."
The day began with a shower of hailstones at the start in Aurillac and 178 riders took to their bikes, meaning 20 have retired since the July 2 start in the Vendee.
There was a minor crash in the peloton after 11km before six riders - Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil), Arthur Vichot (FDJ), Sebastien Minard (Ag2r La Mondiale), Anthony Delaplace (Saur-Sojasun), Julien El Fares (Cofidis) and Remy Di Gregorio (Astana) - formed the day's breakaway after 16km.
The escapees swept up the first six places at the intermediate sprint, before Cavendish led the peloton over the line to take nine points for seventh place and narrow his deficit in the race for the green jersey.
Maillot vert incumbent Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) was 11th and scored five points.
The escapees were caught at the foot of the day's final climb, the category four Cote de Mirandol-Bourgnounac.
Gilbert forced the pace, seeking to avoid a mass finish, while Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), wearing the race leader's yellow jersey, went with the Belgian, along with three other riders - Tony Gallopin (Cofidis), Dries Devenyns (QuickStep) and HTC-Highroad's Tony Martin.
Voeckler led the group over the summit, 15km from the finish, but the peloton were within striking distance.
Gilbert broke clear after 8km but the undulating terrain allowed the peloton to catch him inside the final 5km.
Counter attacks began - including from Britain's David Millar (Garmin-Cervelo) - but HTC-Highroad kept the chasing pack in the hunt.
However, the finale threw the stage wide open and Cavendish, despite leading into the short home straight was beaten to the line by Greipel, with Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) third.
It was the first time Cavendish has been beaten by Greipel in a head-to-head sprint.
Cavendish is likely to have an opportunity to avenge the defeat in Wednesday's 167.5km 11th stage from Blaye-les-Mines to Lavaur.