British Team Sky rider Mark Cavendish claimed his second stage win of this year’s Tour de France following a masterful sprint victory in stage 18 on Friday while Bradley Wiggins closed in on the Tour title
The day’s ride took the peloton over 225 kilometres from Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde in the centre of the France.
With just one open stage remaining and 13 teams yet to win a stage the day’s relatively flat terrain offered the ideal chance for those to make their mark and save their team’s Tour honour.
After several early attacks failed a large group escaped after 67 kilometres and settled in for a long day out in front.
Within the final 10 kilometres a few counter attacks brought the finale to life but the main bunch had already nibbled away at their lead and had the escapees in their sight.
All were together down the final stretch leaving the mass sprint on and with the Olympic road race little more than a week away Britain’s Mark Cavendish proved he was ready for the show to begin.
The World champion was led out by his Team Sky leader and yellow jersey holder Wiggins and produced a superb finish outkicking the field for his second stage win of the 99th edition of the race.
Cavendish, nicknamed the Manx Missile, held off the spirited challenges of Australian Matt Goss and points leader Peter Sagan of Slovakia for top honours – Spain’s Luis Leon Sanchez took fourth while Ireland’s Nicolas Roche completed the top five.
Wiggins meanwhile took another step towards the becoming the first Brit to win cycling’s most famous race when he kept all his rivals in check and crossed the line well up the field.
He remains two minutes and five seconds clear of team-mate and compatriot Chris Froome while Italian Vincenzo Nibali is third two minutes and 41 seconds adrift ahead of the penultimate stage – a 53.5 kilometre individual time trial from Bonneval to Chartres.