MONTARGIS, France – Britain’s Mark Cavendish broke down in tears after winning the fifth stage of the Tour de France Thursday for his first victory in this year’s race.
Defending champion Alberto Contador of Spain was 19th in the stage, and seven-time tour winner Lance Armstrong finished 30th.
Cavendish, who won six stages last year and four in 2008, broke through on the mostly flat 116.3-mile trek from Epernay to Montargis. The main pack, which included Tyler Farrar of Wenatchee, cruised home just behind him in 4 hours, 30 minutes, 50 seconds.
Fabian Cancellara retained the yellow jersey. Among top contenders behind Cancellara, Cadel Evans of Australia holds third place, 39 seconds back, and 2009 runner-up Andy Schleck of Luxembourg is sixth, 1:09 back.
Contador is ninth, 1:40 back, while Armstrong is 2:30 back in 18th.
The 25-year-old Cavendish thrust his arms skyward and hugged teammates in the winner’s circle after beating Gerald Ciolek of Germany and Edvald Boasson Hagen of Norway. Cavendish had faded in a sprint finish in Wednesday’s stage won by Italy’s Alessandro Petacchi, and bared his frustration by hurling his bike after the fourth stage.
“It’s incredible, it’s been a long time,” said Cavendish of his stage win. “Yesterday wasn’t that great for us. I let the guys down.”
Cavendish has developed a reputation among some as a “bad boy” of cycling. He was fined by international cycling’s governing body, UCI, this spring for making a hand gesture that was deemed unsuitable after he won a sprint finish in a Tour de Romandie stage.
Breaking down during a TV interview, after holding his face in his hands, HTC Columbia rider Cavendish admitted the “pressure was immense,” said he had “been through a helluva lot,” and denied that he had thrown his bike down a day earlier.
“I just want to thank all the people who supported me,” he said.
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