Tour De France Update: King Cavendish and Ventoux’s Shadow

Text by Christian Camerota

Neither the peloton's blistering pace
nor the looming shadow of Mont Ventoux kept Mark Cavendish from his fifth
stage victory of the Tour De France on Friday.

The sprint-prone Team Columbia star
propelled himself to his Stage 19 win, edging Tony Martin and making him
the first rider since Lance Armstrong in 2004 to capture that many legs
of the race. Cavendish excelled despite an average peloton pace of
over 46km per hour (28.5 mph), a speed that consistently increased throughout
the 178 km distance.

"It's beautiful," Cavendish
said of his accomplishment. "We were just determined. Today
was a really, really hard day and we've seen five or six guys from my team
just empty their tank and I'm sure they're going to suffer for it tomorrow
and for them to put themselves in the box before Ventoux, to enable me
to win, shows how special they are.  How they worked today was brilliant…just
perfect."

Meanwhile, Lance Armstrong finished
in the second group, gaining what could turn out to be four key seconds
in the chase for the podium on Bradley Wiggins and and Andreas Klöden,
who are fourth and fifth overall behind him.  He also gained four
seconds on Andy Schleck, who is in second behind Tour leader and Armstrong's
teammate Alberto Contador.

Though the Tour de France does not officially
conclude until Sunday's ride into Paris and parade on the Champs-Élysées,
that portion is largely ceremonial. Tomorrow's 167km climb to the
top of Mont Ventoux, a mammoth peak of prodigious lore in the Tour's history,
will determine the winner.

Riders will return to Mont Ventoux after
a seven year absence and for only the eighth time in the Tour's history.
The mountain is best known for its grueling ascents and for claiming
the life of British cycliist Tom Simpson in 1967.

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