Britain’s Mark Cavendish won the fifth stage of the Tour de France on a day marred by crashes to the likes of fellow countryman Bradley Wiggins and defending champion Alberto Contador.
The Spaniard, who thought he had won the fourth stage before realising he had been pipped by Australia’s Cadel Evans, fell with 88 km to go and was later joined by other big names including Denmark’s Nicki Sorensen and Quick step’s Tom Boonen.
The last 10 kms along narrow roads saw numerous attacks foiled as the stage ended in a sprint finish.
Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert was one of the few riders who charged for the line but it wasn’t to be as Cavendish held his nerve to clinch his first win in this year’s race.
Spaniard Jose Joaquin Rojas produced a solid run but eventually had to settle for third place, finishing just ahead of young Frenchman Tony Gallopin.
Norway’s Thor Hushovd, who took the race lead when Garmin won Sunday’s team time-trial in Les Essarts, held on to the yellow jersey. Cadel Evans is currently lying in second place.