Mark Cavendish won his 26th Tour de France stage on Friday to take sole possession of third place on the overall list.
The Manx Missile darted down the inside to deny German Andre Greipel a third sprint finish stage win this year as Peter Sagan finished third at the end of the 190.5km seventh stage from Livarot to Fougeres.
It was a second straight win for the Etixx-Quick Step team following Zdenek Stybar’s success on Thursday, and went some way to making up for the loss of the yellow jersey due to Tony Martin’s broken collarbone.
Martin crashed on Thursday’s stage and had to quit the race despite being in the leader’s yellow jersey, before undergoing a successful operation in Hamburg on Friday.
Cavendish had not won a Tour stage since 2013 having crashed out with a separated shoulder on the first stage of the 2014 edition.
And he had been out of sorts so far on this Tour, finishing fourth on Sunday’s second stage and third on Wednesday’s fifth stage, both of which were won by Greipel.
But the Briton took a third stage win for Etixx at this Tour — Martin won Tuesday’s fourth stage — and moved one clear of Frenchman Andre Leducq on the overall list headed by two Tour legends and five-time overall champions: Eddy Merckx (34) and Bernard Hinault (28).
German Greipel’s second place ensured he maintained his lead in the green points jersey ahead of Sagan.
But the Slovak moved up to second in the overall standings thanks to a time bonus on the line to sit just 5sec behind leader Chris Froome, who had refused to wear the yellow jersey on Friday as a mark of respect towards Martin.
American Tejay Van Garderen is third overall at 13sec. – Agence France-Presse