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Cavendish sprints to win 10th Tour stage

MARK Cavendish won the 10th stage of the Tour de France yesterday, narrowly beating Thor Hushovd in a sprint finish on a flat stage that had cyclists riding without earpieces.

The British sprinter earned his third stage win of the Tour by breaking ahead in the final 200 meters and holding off a late charge from Norwegian Hushovd. Tyler Farrar of the United States finished third.

Rinaldo Nocentini of Italy kept the race leader's yellow jersey on the 194.5-kilometer trek between Limoges and Issoudun that favored sprinters. Seven-time champion Lance Armstrong finished safely in the main pack and remains in third place, with Astana teammate Alberto Contador in second.

Four riders were caught late in the race following a long breakaway.

Thierry Hupond, Benoit Vaugrenard, Mikhail Ignatiev and Samuel Dumoulin were caught with about 1.4 kilometers to go. Cavendish then turned into the home straight and was perfectly set up by his Team Columbia teammates. He was pressured by Hushovd, but held on for his seventh career Tour stage win.

Shoulder injury

Danish champion Kurt-Asle Arvesen suffered a left shoulder injury after the Saxo Bank rider crashed after 90 kilometers.

Armstrong is coming out of 3 1/2 years of retirement and chasing an eighth Tour title. Contador is aiming for a second title after winning in 2007. The Spanish mountain specialist was unable to defend his title last year because Astana was barred from the race because of doping scandals.

The Tour hoped to inject drama into this race by eliminating earpieces in the 10th and 13th stages. Many riders, including Armstrong and Contador, saw the measure as dangerous.

"I can't hear anything, I don't know anything. I feel naked," Armstrong joked as he got off his Astana team bus and mounted his bike to go to the start line.

Astana team director Johan Bruyneel had campaigned for the ban to be overturned. But it was upheld and is also scheduled for Friday, a tricky stage featuring one big climb and possibly many attacks. Teams are still pressuring organizers to overturn the ban. "My impression is that we'll have the radio on Friday," Armstrong said.

With the backing of the cycling's governing body, Tour organizers decided last month that rider radios and TV sets in cars would be banned for the 10th and 13th stages.

Earpieces allow riders to be linked to their directors in the team cars. Popularized by Armstrong when he won his first Tour in 1999, some riders and former champions have recently criticized them for making the sport too clinical.


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