Five-star win for Cavendish
Mark Cavendish became the most successful British rider in Tour de France history with his fifth stage win of this year's race.
Last Updated: 04/08/09 5:23pm
Mark Cavendish claimed his fifth stage victory in this year's Tour de France with another perfect sprint in Jallieu-Aubenas.
Cavendish took advantage of Team Columbia's lead out to hit the front in the closing stages of the 178-kilometre route from Bourgoin.
And the Manxman once again proved unstoppable, holding off Thor Hushovd to cross the line unchallenged.
Norway's Hushovd, of Cervelo, finished second to retain the green jersey with German Gerald Ciolek taking third for Milram.
Cavendish's victory was the ninth of his career and makes him the most successful British rider in Tour de France history.
The 24-year-old, riding in just his third Tour, surpassed Barry Hoban, who won eight stages from 1967-75.
"I promised to the guys that I would do something nice if they would help me in the (final) climb," he said.
"They are all fantastic lads."
Alberto Contador retained the yellow jersey despite being caught on the wrong side of a split in the main bunch.
His Astana team-mate Lance Armstrong, third overall, was the beneficiary, picking up four seconds on all his rivals for a podium spot.
Contador, who remains four minutes and 11 seconds ahead of Andy Schleck in the general classification, now has just two stages to negotiate before the finish on the Champs-Elysees on Sunday.
The penultimate stage on Saturday, which concludes at the summit of Mont Ventoux, is the last chance for the Spaniard's rivals to attack.
"You can lose the Tour everyday and today, I kind of slowed down by the end because of the rain," said Contador.
"I would like tomorrow's stage to be quiet although I know it's not what the fans want.
"This Tour has been extremely difficult, I am savouring it twice as much as I would have normally."
A 20-man group including Cadel Evans - out to make up for his calamitous Tour thus far - formed an early breakaway at the start of stage 19.
But the escapees were caught shortly before the ascent of the day's only major climb, the category two Col de l'Arenier.
Laurent Lefevre tried his luck as soon as the road went skyward and was later joined by world champion Alessandro Ballan.
The duo built a 20-second advantage before Team Columbia took control at the front of the peloton.
Ballan and Lefevre were duly swallowed up with just over one km to go to leave the sprinters to battle it out.
1 M Cavendish (Britain/Columbia) 3hrs 50mins 35secs
2 T Hushovd (Norway/Cervelo) ST
3 G Ciolek (Germany/Milram)
4 G Van Avermaet (Belgium/Silence-Lotto)
5 O Freire (Spain/Rabobank)
6 J Pineau (France/Quick-Step)
7 F Beppu (Japan/Skil-Shimano)
8 N Roche (Ireland/AG2R)
9 C Le Mevel (France/Francaise des Jeux)
10 M Maaskant (Netherlands/Garmin)
1 A Contador (Spain/Astana) 77hrs 06mins 18secs
2 A Schleck (Luxembourg/Saxo Bank) +4:11"
3 L Armstrong (US/Astana) +5:21"
4 B Wiggins (Britain/Garmin) +5:36"
5 A Kloeden (Germany/Astana) +5:38"