Armstrong still third overall
SAINT-FARGEAU, France -- Mark Cavendish won the 11th stage of the Tour de France on Wednesday, Rinaldo Nocentini of Italy held onto the yellow jersey and Lance Armstrong remained third overall.
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Armstrong finished safely in the main pack, with his Astana teammate Alberto Contador narrowly ahead of him in second place overall after Wednesday's 119-mile trek from Vatan to Saint-Fargeau.
Nocentini leads Contador by six seconds and Armstrong trails by eight.
"I feel in very good shape," Nocentini said. "I hope to keep the yellow jersey."
Cavendish sealed his second straight stage win and fourth of the Tour. The British cyclist finished about half a bike length ahead of American Tyler Farrar in a sprint finish on a flat stage.
Cavendish took the green jersey from Thor Hushovd of Norway, who finished fifth, and equaled British rider Barry Hoban's tally of eight Tour stage wins.
"I was able to get the jump on Thor and win, so it was perfect," Cavendish said. "It was just beautiful the way the guys could adapt to the situation and deliver me to the sprint."
Cavendish denied that the competition Wednesday was not a challenge to him.
"[That's] a massive, massive insult to say [the other] guys are weak," he said. "They gave me a massive fight today and came close."
Cavendish will defend the green jersey on another flat stage Thursday before the race heads into a medium mountain stage on Friday.
Nocentini was among the riders who fell in two early crashes on Wednesday, giving Belgian rider Johan Van Summeren and Marcin Sapa of Poland the opportunity to break away after 18.7 miles.
"I was in a fall, but nothing too serious. I didn't hurt myself," Nocentini said. "I managed to get back up and finish calmly."
The early leaders were eventually caught by the chasing pack, led by the Team Columbia-High Road riders, some 3 miles from the finish.
The Columbia team worked well together at the front, just as they did Tuesday, to get Cavendish in the best position to attack in the closing stages.
Farrar pushed hard at the end and nearly caught him.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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