PARIS – Mark Cavendish claimed a sensational win on stage 18 of the Tour de France today, as his Team Sky colleague Bradley Wiggins edged closer to becoming the first British winner of the yellow jersey.
World champion Cavendish powered through the field in breathtaking fashion before accelerating away in the last 200 metres of the 222.5-kilometre route from Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde.
Mathew Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) was a distant second, with the green jersey of Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) in third.
It was a 22nd Tour success of Cavendish’s career, his second this year, and the 27-year-old from the Isle of Man equals Lance Armstrong and Andre Darrigade in fourth place in the all-time rankings of Tour stage winners.
And for Wiggins it was another stage chalked off without alarm – indeed he and Edvald Boasson Hagen both put in huge turns to lead out Cavendish in the closing stages.
Wiggins has a two minutes and five seconds advantage over team-mate Chris Froome at the top of the overall standings, with Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) 2mins 41secs adrift in third.
Just two stages remain, with tomorrow’s 53.5km time-trial to Chartres the last for time gains to be made.
Cavendish will have another opportunity in Sunday’s final stage on the Champs-Elysees where he is unbeaten, having won in 2009, 2010, and 2011 in the three Tours he has completed.