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Tour: Cavendish wins stage; Voeckler keeps lead

Updated: July 17, 2011, 12:42

Mark Cavendish of Britain, wearing the best sprinter's green jersey, Rigoberto Uran of Colombia, wearing the best young rider's white jersey, and Thomas Voeckler of France, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, wait for the start of the 15th stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 193 kilometers (120 miles) starting in Limoux and finishing in Montpellier, southern France, Sunday July 17, 2011. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

MONTPELLIER, France (AP) British sprinter Mark Cavendish edged American Tyler Farrar to win his fourth stage at this Tour de France, while France's Thomas Voeckler kept the yellow jersey Sunday on a wind-swept ride through vineyard country.

The main contenders played it safe on the 120-mile route toward the Mediterranean and finished right behind the sprinters. Frank Schleck of Luxembourg remains second overall, 1 minute, 49 seconds back. Two-time Tour runner-up Cadel Evans is third, 2:06 behind. Defending champion Alberto Contador is seventh, four minutes off the pace.

The mostly flat course from Limoux to Montpellier favored sprinters, giving them a chance to shine again after three days of tough climbs in the Pyrenees.

"I had a lot of trouble in the mountains. It was difficult,'' Cavendish said. "Today, it was a difficult, technical finish. There was wind on both sides and lot of bashing.''

The breezy conditions reminded Cavendish of his native Isle of Man.

"The wind today is the way it always is at home,'' he said.

Voeckler, who rides for the Europcar squad, first took the overall lead in the crash-marred ninth stage and surprisingly held it through the mountains.

"I am happy it was flat,'' Voeckler said.

Cavendish and Farrar were followed in the 15th stage by third-place finisher Alessandro Petacchi of Italy. For his career, Cavendish has won 19 Tour de France stages.

Five riders - all about two hours behind Voeckler - surged from the pack at the 1.2-mile mark and built a lead of 4 minutes, 15 seconds. But the pack, led by Cavendish, barreled ahead before the intermediate sprint with 28 miles left and narrowed the gap on the breakaway.

In that sprint, Cavendish went on to win the most points among contenders for the best sprinter's green jersey, nosing out Jose Joaquin Rojas of Spain and Belgium's Philippe Gilbert.

Nicki Terpstra of the Netherlands was among the breakaway riders but was caught with close to two miles left.

Monday is the second and final rest day before cyclists head into the foothills of the Alps for Stage 16 on Tuesday, a 101-mile ride from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Gap. The Tour ends July 24 in Paris.

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