Cavendish surprised many by hanging with the climbers to take the stage win and put himself back into the running (barely) for the Green Jersey over the hilly Stage 19 of the Tour de France from Annecy to Aubenas. Ã‚Â He now has 235 points to Hushovd’s 260, making it mathematically possible for him to win the points game by the time they roll through the Champs Elysees on Sunday.
All of the General Classification leaders finished in the front pack, keeping the top ten overall virtually unchanged save for Lance Armstrong, who slipped across the finish line 4 seconds ahead of the pack, gaining a small advantage as the riders head into the big climb up Mont Ventoux tomorrow.
An early break was expected to stay away and produce the stage winner (it had no GC threats), giving hope to some early favorites to make some impression. Ã‚Â Cadel Evans (SIL), Popovych (AST), Millar (GRM), Kirchen (COL) and 16 others thought they had broken away for good,Ã‚Â but Rabobank had other plans…
Thinking that Cavendish wouldn’t be able to hang in the hills, they pushed the pace to set up Oscar Freire for a win. Ã‚Â Columbia-HTC answered, with Hincapie and the rest of their freight train helping to reel in a late break by Allesandro Ballan and Laurent Lefevre just after they crested the final climb of the day…and Cav hung on.
As they rolled over the cap of l’Escreinet, Hincapie barreled forward to catch the lead pair, then Mark Renshaw led out Cavendish. Hushovd held his wheel for the entire sprint, minimizing the points damage on the 250km uphill dash to the finish.
By contrast, Astana and Saxo Bank got to take it easy today, saving their riders for the showdown tomorrow when the Schleck brothers will pull out all the stops to make Contador suffer, hoping to break him down and close the 4 minute gap to Yellow.
Contador kept his Yellow Jersey with a solid, perhaps insurmountable, 4’11” lead over Andy Schleck.
2009 TOUR de FRANCE STAGE 19 TOP 12:
|4||Greg Van Avermaet||SIL||+0″|
|9||Christophe Le Mevel||FDJ||+0″|
2009 TOUR de FRANCE TOP 10 OVERALL AFTER STAGE 18:
|8||C. Vande Velde||GRM||+10Ã¢â‚¬Â²08Ã¢â‚¬Â³|
|9||C. Le Mevel||FDJ||+12Ã¢â‚¬Â²37Ã¢â‚¬Â³|