LAVAUR, France — Wenatchee’s Tyler Farrar was foiled again today and finished third in the rainy and overcast Stage 11 of the Tour de France as Mark Cavendish claimed his third sprint win of the race.
With a heavy downpour beginning with about nine miles left, Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) of Great Britain moved wide right in the waning yards and completed the 104-mile stage from Blaye-les-Mines in 3 hours, 46 minutes and 7 seconds for his 18th career Tour de France victory.
Andre Greipel (Omega-Phama Lotto) of Germany, who claimed the 10th stage, appeared to take the line Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo) was pursuing and placed second more than a bike length behind.
Farrar swung left with a final surge, but finished about half a bike length behind Greipel. Farar missed the sprinter’s group in earlier stages via a crash and an off day when he said he
wasn’t at his best. Farrar is now 150th overall, trailing by 1 hour, 1 minute, 32 seconds.
Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) of France retained the race lead he assumed after finishing second in Stage 9. Voeckler leads Luis-Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) of Spain by 1:49 with Cadel Evans (BMC) third, 2:26 behind.
Farrar, winner of Stage 3 on July 4, and the race’s other sprinters,knew all too well the day was their final chance before three straight days in the Pyrenees. The task for the speed demons was to get over two categorized climbs for teammates to get them into position for the final nine miles of largely straight, fast and flat roads to the finish.
Six riders built as much as a 4 1/2-minute cushion, but the sprinters’ teams in the massive lead group, as in most stages, work efficiently and definitively to narrow the leaders’ advantage.
The gap closed to 2:37 with about 25 miles left. Five miles later, one minute had been shaved off the leaders’ cushion. With five miles left, the lead group’s advantage was 31 seconds.
Lars Boom (Rabobank) of the Netherlands escaped from the lead group with about 2 1/2 miles left. Five riders were then quickly absorbed into the main field and then Boom about one mile later.
Farrar liked the finishing terrain of the 11th stage, which was conducive to what he calls “drag racing.”
The 21-day race continues Thursday with the first of six high mountain stages, a 131-mile journey from Cugnaux to Luz-Ardiden. The starting city is another of the first-time cities in the Tour de France. The finish city is ski resort in the Pyrenees that’s been featured in the race seven times but not since 2003 when Lance Armstrong pedaled to a solo win.
The riders in contention for the overall title will come to the forefront in earnest of the final climb to the finish, an 8.2-mile trek with an average 7.4 percent gradient and the stage’s second hors categorie (or beyond category) climb, the race’s most difficult. The next sprinters’ day is Stage 15 on Sunday.