Mark Cavendish won the 13th stage of the Tour de France in a sprint finish on Friday even as Chris Froome lost a sizeable chunk of his overall lead after being caught out by an attack from Alberto Contador.
Cavendish moved ahead with about 100 meters left and rival Peter Sagan, who leads the contest for the best sprinter’s green jersey, was unable to stay with him.
It was the British sprinter’s second stage win of this year’s Tour and 25th overall, moving him level in third place with Andre Leducq on the all-time list.
With about a third of the stage gone, the main pack was split into three and Alejandro Valverde dropped way out of overall contention after stopping to repair a puncture that cost him a huge amount of time and put him outside the top 10. Valverde was second overnight but that spot was overtaken by Dutchman Bauke Mollema, while two-time former champion Contador improved to third. They both gained one minute nine seconds on Froome. That means Mollema is 2:28 behind and Contador is 2:45 adrift.
Friday’s performance should be a big boost for Contador going into a tough mountain stage on Sunday and then three gruelling Alpine stages to follow. Given that Froome finished all alone and without any Sky teammates on a flat stage, it suggests he could be in serious trouble in the mountains if he’s isolated by an attack from Contador.
Sky is down to seven riders after Edvald Boasson Hagen had to pull out after fracturing his right shoulder in a crash involving about 20 riders near the end of Thursday’s stage. Of the remaining seven, Geraint Thomas is riding with a fractured pelvis.