Cavendish wins 18th stage, Contador still in yellow

Bordeaux, France, July 23: Britain's Mark Cavendish claimed his 14th career success on the Tour de France Friday after coasting to victory in a bunch finish to the 18th stage over 198km from Salies-de-Bearn to Bordeaux.

Spaniard Alberto Contador retained the yellow jersey with his eight-second lead on Andy Schleck still intact, a day ahead of the race's final time trial over 52km.

Cavendish meanwhile gave a sprinting master class to his rivals on what was one of the last stages likely to finish in a bunch sprint.

The HTC-Columbia rider, who has been missing lead-out man Mark Renshaw since the Australian's exclulsion from the race last week, came over the line with room to spare after following Alessandro Petacchi's wheel in the last 400 metres.

Lampre rider Petacchi finished third behind Kiwi Julian Dean, of Garmin-Transitions, but did enough to take back the green jersey for the sprinters' points competition from Norwegian Thor Hushovd.

Cervelo sprinter Hushovd was well placed in the final kilometre but lost ground when two-stage winner Petacchi veered to the left of the road, creating a new echelon which an alert Cavendish did well to follow.

Cavendish then powered past Petacchi with relative ease, and had time to sit up and look back at his rivals before crossing the finish line in victory.

Isle of Man rider Cavendish has now won four stages on the race, to go with the six he won in 2009 and four he won in 2008.

He is also back in the running for the green jersey, an objective he began the race with but had to forget about after a disastrous first week of racing.

After the time trial on Saturday, the sprinters are likely to be back in action on Sunday when the race finishes on the Champs Elysees in Paris, where Cavendish won his sixth stage of last year's edition.

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