Tour de France: Mark Cavendish takes 29th stage win

Mark Cavendish
Mark Cavendish has won three stages at this year's Tour so far

Mark Cavendish edged a thrilling sprint to win a 29th Tour de France stage, moving him outright second in the race's all-time standings.

The Manxman beat Marcel Kittel to the line on stage six to edge ahead of five-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault.

Cavendish is now five behind another five-time Tour winner, Eddy Merckx.

"That was terrifying," said the 31-year-old Cavendish. "That was like the old days, just wheel surfing. It was carnage in the final straight."

Fellow Briton Dan McLay was third in a bunch sprint, with Team Sky's Chris Froome safely home in the peloton.

On a relatively flat stage from Arpajon-sur-Cere to Montauban, set up for sprinters, there was no great movement in the general classification as Belgium's Greg van Avermaet remained in the yellow jersey.

The BMC rider still leads France's Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick-Step) by five minutes and 11 seconds.

Froome, the 2013 and 2015 champion, is a further six seconds behind.

Cavendish beat Kittel (far right) and McLay (far left) but by less than a metre
Cavendish beat Kittel (bottom) and McLay (top) but by less than a metre

Cavendish leaves it late to seal success

Cavendish had already won the opening stage of this year's Tour to take hold of the yellow jersey for the first time before claiming victory in a photo finish on stage four.

His third stage win of 2016 ensured the Team Dimension Data rider grabbed the leading sprinter's green jersey from Slovakia's Peter Sagan (Tinkoff).

"I knew it would be the right thing to go early because it was downhill," said Cavendish following his latest win.

"I went for the line and I had to come again, I did what Marcel has done to me in the last four years and held on."

Fortuneo-Vital Concept's McLay, who earned a fourth top-10 finish of his maiden Tour, was actually finishing faster than Cavendish or Kittel but the 24-year-old ran out of tarmac.

Chris Froome
Froome is aiming to become only the eighth man to win three Tours de France

Froome plays it safe before Pyrenees

Despite Van Avermaet eking out a five-minute lead on Wednesday, there was no desperation from the main general classification contenders to claw back the time given he is not considered a main rival.

They will get a better chance to reduce the deficit when the Tour heads to the Pyrenees on Friday.

The main task for the likes of Froome, Movistar's Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde was to stay out of trouble as the sprinters jockeyed for a last chance of glory before the ascents take their toll.

Once the breakaway pair of Jan Barta (Bora-Argon) and Yukiya Arashiro (Lampre-Merida) were caught by the peloton with 21km to go, Froome's team-mates kept him at the front of the main pack to ensure he was not involved in any crashes.

Fellow yellow jersey rival Alberto Contador remains six minutes and 39 seconds off the leader's pace, while Vincenzo Nibali looks unlikely to mount a challenge after winning the 2016 Giro D'Italia.

Stage six result:

1. Mark Cavendish (Britain / Dimension Data) 4:43:48"

2. Marcel Kittel (Germany/Etixx - Quick-Step) same time

3. Daniel McLay (Britain / Fortuneo)

4. Alexander Kristoff (Norway / Katusha)

5. Christophe Laporte (France / Cofidis)

6. Peter Sagan (Slovakia / Tinkoff)

7. Dylan Groenewegen (Netherlands / LottoNL)

8. Edward Theuns (Belgium / Trek)

9. Bryan Coquard (France / Direct Energie)

10. Shane Archbold (New Zealand / BORA)

General classification after stage six:

1. Greg van Avermaet (Bel/BMC Racing) 30hrs 18mins 39secs

2. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra/Etixx-Quick-Step) +5mins 11secs

3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Movistar) +5mins 13secs

4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa/Katusha) +5mins 15secs

5. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) +5mins 17secs

6. Warren Barguil (Fra/Giant) same time

7. Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar)

8. Pierre Rolland (Fra/Cannondale)

9. Fabio Aru (Ita/Astana)

10. Daniel Martin (Ire/Etixx-Quick-Step)

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