Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) won stage five of the 2013 Tour de France after a bunch sprint in Marseille to take his overall tally in the race to 24.
Cavendish was given a perfect lead-out by his sprint train, with team-mate Gert Steegmans setting the Manx Missile up for the win ahead of Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling).
Cavendish, who said he recognised the final uncategorised climb of Col de la Gineste from his first ever professional race and knew he had a good chance, admitted he was delighted to have put a frustrating start to the Tour behind him.
“I’m super happy,” he said. “It was frustrating yesterday with the pressure on, but now it is off and hopefully we can set the ball rolling.
“I don’t normally win until around the fifth stage anyway so it’s about usual. We were motivated today.”
A break went early with Romain Sicard (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Thomas De Gendt (Vanconsoleil-DCM), Anthony Delaplace (Sojasun), and the Europcar duo of Kevin Reza and Yukiya Arashiro immediately moving clear.
The six-man break extended their lead to almost ten minutes as they crossed the first category four climb, with De Gendt first over the summit to secure his first mountains points of this year’s race ahead of Delaplace.
Astana’s Enrico Gasparotto fell as the peloton were halfway up the climb, but he remounted with no lasting damage as the break’s lead was allowed to grow to more than 12 minutes.
Team time trial winners, Orica-GreenEDGE, protecting the maillot jaune of stage three winner Simon Gerrans, increased the drove the peloton but the escapees remained ahead, and De Gendt collected the solitary point on offer on the category four Col de l’Ange.
The Belgian then held off Lutsenko’s challenge to claim first place in the intermediate sprint with Delaplace third, Arashiro – who initially tried to challenge De Gendt – fourth, Sicard fifth and Reza sixth. In the peloton, Greipel won the bunch kick ahead of Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Sagan and Cavendish.
The sprint saw the peloton reduce the gap to 9’35” but they continued to set a sedate pace, with an average of 39.5km/h over the first three hours.
By the time Arashiro crossed the third categorised summit first, however, the lead had been further reduced and by the time Sicard, Delaplace and Reza were dropped, it was down to six minutes.
Reza bridged to rejoin the leading group but the peloton – with Argos-Shimano, Omega Pharma-Quickstep and Lotto-Belisol all sending riders to the front to aid Orica-GreenEDGE – began to really up the pace with a bunch sprint in the offing.
Sicard and Delaplace were caught with 33km to go as the peloton maintained a high speed into the final categorised climb.
De Gendt led the escapees over the summit of the category four Cote des Bastides to take his fourth climbing point of the day and the four-man group continued to fight hard at the front.
Lutsenko and Arashiro made one final break but they were caught on the final descent as the peloton geared up for the finale.
And that left Omega Pharma-QuickStep to deliver Cavendish to the finish line to perfection.
Yellow jersey holder Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) retained the maillot jaune after safely finishing in the bunch, but a big crash in the peloton in the closing stages could have lasting implications for some of the riders unfortunate enough to be caught up in it.
Tour de France 2013 – stage five – result
1) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep – 5:31:51 hours
2) Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) – Team Sky
3) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Cannondale Pro Cycling
4) André Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Belisol
5) Roberto Ferrari (ITA) – Lampre-Merida
6) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha
7) Juan Jose Lobato (SPA) – Euskaltel Euskadi
8) Ramunas Navardauskas (LIT) – Garmin-Sharp
9) Cyril Lemoine (FRA) – Sojasun
10) Jose Joaquin Rojas (SPA) – Movistar
1) Simon Gerrans (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE
2) Daryl Impey (RSA) – Orica-GreenEDGE – same time
3) Michael Albasini (SWI) – Orica-GreenEDGE
4) Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep +1″
5) Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep – same time
6) Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) – Team Sky +3″
7) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky – same time
8) Richie Porte (AUS) – Team Sky
9) Nicolas Roche (IRL) – Team Saxo-Tinkoff +9″
10) Roman Kreuziger (CZE) – Team Saxo-Tinkoff – same time