- Tour de France, Stage Five
Cavendish storms to glory in Marseille
Mark Cavendish put in a superb sprint finish to win stage five of the Tour de France, storming to the line and fending off the challenge of Team Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen, Peter Sagan and Andre Greipel in an exciting bunched climax.
It was the Manxman's 24th career stage win, and the first of his 2013 Tour, but the final 200 metres were marred by a huge crash on the home straight - as Omega's Gert Steegmans led Cavendish to glory with a perfect approach.
"My Tour had been a little bit frustrating but I normally don't win until 5th stage anyway," Cavendish said. "We were motivated today, Orica normally don't do any work but we could sit back and let them chase today.
"We didn't catch the break until the last minute and needed more men for the lead-out, then got disrupted when we needed to stay on one side of the road. But you saw how committed everyone is and that they have got faith that if the lead-out is right, we will win."
Simon Gerrans will retain the yellow jersey after finishing 15th.
Stage Five comprised of a 228.5km stretch from Cagnes-Sur-Mer to Marseille, including four categorised climbs - however, it would be the sprinters eyeing up the race to the finish.
Wednesday started with the news that Cannondale debutant Ted King had been disqualified from Le Tour after finishing outside the cut-off established by Tour officials in Tuesday's team time trial - riders must finish within 25% of their team's time.
King was riding a road bike instead of his race bike during the trial after he suffered a dislocated shoulder in Stage One's crash, shortly after the Orica team bus was freed when becoming wedged under the finish line - and Cannondale spokesperson Paolo Barbieri told the BBC that officials "did not want to change their minds".
A breakaway of six riders opened up a gap of 12 minutes 55km into the stage, with Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil) and Anthony Delaplace (Sojasun) picking up early points in the King of the Mountains race as they lead over the first category three climb- while polka dot jersey holder Pierre Rolland was still wearing matching shorts.
With 145km to go, the gap began to tumble as the peloton pushed on - even Batman and Robin joined in as fans continued to enjoy the spectacle.
De Gendt reached the peak of the second climb ahead of the pack before taking the maximum 20 points on offer for the intermediate sprint.
In the chase for the green jersey, Cavendish positioned himself well in the peloton but it was Andre Greipel who claimed the nine points after the leaders had passed. Marcel Kirstoff took eight, Sagan won seven and Cavendish finished with six - although all had eyes on the 45 points given to the stage winner.
Tour favourite Chris Froome, along with rivals Alberto Contador and Cadel Evans , sat comfortably in the peloton looking to stay out of harm's way with the final 100km approaching.
Yellow jersey holder Simon Gerrans and his fellow Orica team-mates enjoyed most of the stage at the front of the peloton, slowly drawing in the leaders as the sprinters - including Lotto - began to make their move.
Geraint Thomas continued his heroic ride with a fractured pelvis, staying with the peloton throughout the stage in a bid to help proptect Froome while team-mate Richie Porte recovered well after suffering a puncture.
Inside the final 60km mark, the hills began to take their toll on the leading group with Delaplace and Romain Sicard falling back, the latter suffering a puncture and expending too much effort to rejoin.
Greipel and Lotto gave clear indication of their desire for a bunch sprint as they moved to the front of the peloton, with the Argos team in close proximity and Cavendish's Omega team-mates watching with a keen eye - the gap now less than five minutes to the breakaway group.
The quartet reached the final climb, as Sicard and Delaplace were caught by the main group. With the gap dropping below three and a half minutes, Omega took the initiative in the peloton and Sicard was spat out of the back - his challenge for the day over.
Cavendish soon moved to join his team-mates, sitting around 10th place in the peloton ahead of the yellow-clad Gerrans, whose Orica team were grouping well looking to keep their man in front.
Froome was another looking to move within contention, surrounded by Sky with less than 20km to go - rivals Evans and Contador close by. Cannondale responded while De Gendt took the reins at the front, 17km out.
Polka dot wearing Rolland was caught up in a huge accident as the pack reached the 15km-out mark, which left a trail of riders on the floor - Garmin's Christian Vande Velde appearing to come off worse as Steegmans was caught by a BMC rider when sitting up in the saddle.
Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) and Kevin Reza (Europcar) broke out of the quartet to lead, the peloton 17 seconds behind with 9km remaining - the Omega team leading the charge.
Greipel and Sagan joined the front, but Chavanel of Omega controlled the pace for Cavendish.
One kilometre out and Lotto made their sprint move to the front - but it was Cavendish and Steegmans who timed their move to absolute perfection, avoiding the huge crash at the finish before the 28-year-old crossed the line with his arms aloft.
Stage Five, Cagnes-sur-mer - Marseille
1. Mark Cavendish (GB) Omega Pharma 5:31:51
2. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky
3. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale
4. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol
5. Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre-Merida
6 . Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
7. Juan Jose Lobato Del Valle (Spa) Euskaltel Euskadi
8. Ramunas Navardauskas (Lit) Garmin-Sharp
9. Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Sojasun
10. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar
General classification after Stage Five
1. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica
2. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica
3. Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica
4. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma 0:00:01
5. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma
6. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky 0:00:03
7. Christopher Froome (GB) Team Sky
8. Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky
9. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:09
10. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Saxo-Tinkoff