Manx Missile Mark Cavendish secured his 19th Tour de France win, and fourth this year, with a trademark sprint finish on stage 15 in Montpellier.
Cavendish launched his sprint from the wheel of leadout man Mark Renshaw with 300m to go on the 193km stage before beating stage three victor Tyler Farrar and 2010 green jersey winner Alessandro Petacchi to the line.
The 26-year-old, who becomes the first rider in history to win at least four stages at four successive Tours, now leads the points classification by 37 points ahead of Jose Joaquin Rojas, while Frenchman Thomas Voeckler remains in the overall lead.
Cavendish’s 19 victories put him seventh on the all-time list of stage winners, just three behind seven-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong.
Five riders – Mickael Delage (FDJ), Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis), Anthony Delaplace (Saur-Sojasun), Niki Terpstra (Quick Step) and Russian Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) – formed the day’s break early on and built up a three-and-a-half minute advantage over the day’s only climb, a fourth-category ascent to Villespassans.
Cavendish led the bunch gallop at the intermediate sprint to secure 10 points with 46.5km of the stage remaining, while Rojas, second in the points classification, claimed nine points and Philippe Gilbert, 71 points adrift of the green jersey, earned eight.
Ignatiev and Terpstra, the remaining escapees, were hauled in by the peloton with 5km to go as Cavendish’s HTC-Highroad team and Farrar’s Garmin-Cervelo squad shared the work in a bid to set-up their respective sprinters.
Omega Pharma-Lotto rider Gilbert, FDJ’s Anthony Roux and Vacansoleil-DCM’s Marco Marcato made a late bid for glory in the closing kilometres but were reeled in by the chasing juggernaut to leave Cavendish to underline his status as the fastest man in the peloton.