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British ace Cavendish on cloud nine

MARK Cavendish became the most successful Briton on the Tour de France when he snatched his ninth win in the 19th stage yesterday.

Cavendish outsprinted Norway's Thor Hushovd after 178 kilometers from Bourgoin-Jallieu to Aubenas, with German Gerald Ciolek coming home third.

The Team Columbia rider beat the record eight career stage wins of Barry Hoban as he showed unbeatable form on the final straight to cross the line first for the fifth time this year.

Spain's Alberto Contador retained the yellow jersey with a commanding four minutes 11 seconds lead over Luxembourg's Andy Schleck despite being trapped in a late split with other top guns. Lance Armstrong, third overall, gained four seconds to move 1:10 behind Schleck.

The seven-time Tour champion has a 15-second lead over fourth-placed Bradley Wiggins of Britain.

A 20-man breakaway shaped up in the early stages yesterday, notably featuring Australian Cadel Evans who was out to make up for his calamitous Tour so far.

Evans, runner-up in 2007 and 2008, started the stage in 29th position overall 38:20 off the pace.

The fugitives were caught shortly before the ascent to the second-category Col de l'Arenier.

France's Laurent Lefevre tried his luck as soon as the road went skyward and was later joined by Alessandro Ballan of Italy. The duo built a 20-second advantage before Cavendish's Columbia team pulled the peloton as a storm broke.

Ballan and Lefevre were swallowed up with just over one km to go, with Cavendish's teammates setting up the Briton for another brilliant sprint to victory.

The race ends in Paris tomorrow.


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