Team Sky ‘train’ rolls to Stage 18 victory

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Team Sky ‘train’ rolls to Stage 18 victory

Cavendish wins; Wiggins leads: ‘For the British, it’s a ... big day’
Bradley Wiggins still looks good in yellow. With less than a mile to go in Stage 18 of the Tour de France, Wiggins took the head of the pack and chased down six breakaway riders, then peeled away to allow his teammate Mark Cavendish take the stage win.
Mark Cavendish won a stage for the second time on this Tour, giving him 22 stage victories for his career and tying him with seven-time champion Lance Armstrong. “It’s a magic number – there’s one more to go,” Cavendish said.
Bradley Wiggins slipped into the yellow leader’s jersey Friday after Stage 18 of the Tour de France, just two stages shy of becoming the first British rider to win cycling’s signature stage race.

BRIVE-LA-GAILLARDE, France – Bradley Wiggins moved closer to becoming the first British champion of the Tour de France, while teammate and countryman Mark Cavendish won the 18th stage in a sprint.

The ride along four small hills Friday took the pack 138 miles from Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde, a transitional stage before Saturday’s time trial. The three-week race will end Sunday in Paris.

Wiggins, Cavendish and the Sky team made it look easy with an almost textbook sprint setup. With less than a mile to go, Wiggins took the head of the pack and chased down six breakaway riders, then peeled away.

The Sky train motored ahead, and Cavendish, showing he’s perhaps the world’s most explosive rider, whirred around the remaining escapees in the last few hundred yards to win by a couple of bike lengths.

Luis Leon Sanchez, seeing Cavendish speed by, appeared to sigh with resignation. Cavendish beat Matt Goss of Australia, with Peter Sagan of Slovakia in third place.

“It was dangerous in the final,” said Wiggins, who hugged Cavendish at the finish. “(Friday) morning we decided to put the train in place and help Mark in the final. It’s my gift to him.”

Cavendish largely has been overshadowed on Sky by Wiggins. He won a stage for the second time on this Tour, giving him 22 stage victories for his career and tying him with seven-time champ Lance Armstrong.

“I just used the slipstreams,” Cavendish said. “I have used this technique to win 22 stages. ... It’s a magic number – there’s one more to go.”

The top of the standings didn’t change. Wiggins leads Sky teammate Christopher Froome by 2 minutes, 5 seconds. Vincenzo Nibali of Italy is third, 2:41 behind. Defending champion Cadel Evans of Australia is sixth, 9:57 back.

The day’s ride got off to a furious pace with riders looking for momentary glory by pulling away. But the pack held close, never letting the breakaway cyclists get ahead by more than about 3½ minutes.

Shortly after the halfway mark, several riders, including Philippe Gilbert of Belgium and Denis Menchov of Russia, crashed after a large dog crossed the road in front of the pack. Gilbert yelled at the dog’s owners on the roadside but was held back by a BMC team manager.

Cavendish showed his domination at the end.

“And once again he showed, if there was any doubt, that he is the fastest man in the world,” Wiggins said.

Cavendish’s victory gives Britain five stage wins this year from four riders: Wiggins, Cavendish, Froome and David Millar. That’s the same number of wins for riders from France.

“For the British, it’s a really big day,” said French President Francois Hollande, visiting at the finish line in Brive-la-Gaillarde, a town in his political fiefdom.

The final big showdown will come today, a 33-mile time trial from Bonneval to Chartres. Riders will leave one-by-one down a ramp in the race against the clock in reverse order of the standings.

Greg Keller in Brive-la-Gaillarde contributed to this report.

Tour de France

BRIVE-LA-GAILLARDE, France – A brief look at Friday’s 18th stage of the 99th Tour de France:
Stage: A 222.5-kilometer hilly stage between Blagnac and Brive-la-Gaillarde, with two short, steep climbs in the last 40 kilometers.
Winner: Mark Cavendish. The “Manx Missile” produced a phenomenal burst of speed to swallow the remaining escapees of the day in the last few hundred meters after benefiting from the lead-out of his Sky team.
Yellow Jersey: Wiggins kept his lead of 2 minutes, 5 seconds over teammate Christopher Froome. Italian climber Vincenzo Nibali is third, 2:41 behind Wiggins.
Stat of the Day: 22, as in the number of Tour stage wins in Cavendish’s career. He joined Lance Armstrong and Andre Darrigade in fourth place on the all-time list of the most successful Tour riders.
Quote of the Day: “It would have been easy for the team to just ride in to Paris now after the mountains. But we spoke on the bus before the start, and I stuck my hand up and said, ‘Please give me a chance,” Cavendish said.
Today’s Stage: The final showdown of this year’s Tour. A 53.5-kilometer time trial from Bonneval to Chartres. Wiggins is unbeaten in long time trials this year and is expected to produce a full-on effort to increase his lead over Froome and silence critics who keep saying he was not the best rider this year.
Associated Press

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Team Sky ‘train’ rolls to Stage 18 victory

CYC
Bradley Wiggins still looks good in yellow. With less than a mile to go in Stage 18 of the Tour de France, Wiggins took the head of the pack and chased down six breakaway riders, then peeled away to allow his teammate Mark Cavendish take the stage win.
CYC
Mark Cavendish won a stage for the second time on this Tour, giving him 22 stage victories for his career and tying him with seven-time champion Lance Armstrong. “It’s a magic number – there’s one more to go,” Cavendish said.
CYC
Bradley Wiggins slipped into the yellow leader’s jersey Friday after Stage 18 of the Tour de France, just two stages shy of becoming the first British rider to win cycling’s signature stage race.
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