Mark Cavendish (Columbia) does it again in Missouri. The Manx man won his third stage, the fourth for his Columbia team by winning the bunch sprint at the end of’ the 97-mile (156 k) stage 6 in St Charles, Missouri. Toyota-United’s Ivan Dominguez was second and Missouri native Brad Huff (Jelly Belly) was third.
“When you’ve got guys with their back wheel lock up both sides of you, you’ve got have just not the handling skills but the balls to keep it up and I was scared for a minute but when you’re following George, I just got to look at George’s wheel and I know that he’s going to get around the corner safe, so if I can follow his wheel then I’m bound to get around the corner safe with him.” said Cavendish about the sketchy last two corners going into the final sprint.
Yellow jersey Christian Vande Velde and his Garmin-Chipotle team successfully defended against all attacks and has only one stage to go, the final circuit race.
As with previous stages, the attacks started at soon at the the neutral start was called, with Columbia still trying to wrestle the lead away from Vande Velde and with non-GC threatening riders trying to get into the break.
Eric Baumann (Sparkasse) initiated the move that would stick just before the first intermediate sprint at about 15 miles (25 k) into the road race. He was joined by Bernhard Eisel (Columbia) who was protecting the Cavendish’ green jersey from second place Baumann, Matej Mugerli (Liquigas), Jos Van Emden (Rabobank), Jeff Louder (BMC), Scott Zwizanski (Bissell), Michael Creed (Rock Racing), Caleb Manion (Toyota-United), Rory Sutherland (Health Net-Maxxis), Carlos Oyarzun (Tecos), and Davide Frattini (Colavita/Sutter Home).
The Columbia team took an armchair ride with Eisel in the break waiting for an opportunity to pounce on the Garmin squad.
The gap started to come down, and crosswinds hit the peloton in the final 12 miles (20 km) and the field and the break felt the pressure causing a split and the splintering of the break. Columbia tried a few moves but couldn’t shake Vande Velde and went back to plan A – the bunch sprint. Finally, it was all together for a bunch sprint, where Columbia’s Michael Barry and George Hincapie provided a great leadout for Cavendish.
“It was pretty crazy, everyone was trying to get behind the Columbia train. It’s just full-horsepower and once they’ve set up shop at the front, everyone else is scrambling behind, With the two corners to go, it made it a little bit dangerous as Garmin was trying to get Christian and Tyler up there, and we were just lucky to come around the corners clean.” said Huff about the final dash to the line.
As the last man standing in the break, refusing to give up, Eisel was awarded the Most Aggressive jersey. Cavendish solidified his lead in the green points jersey and Roman Kreuzinger (Liquigas) is still the Best Young Rider.
With no more KOM points available in the race, Dominique Rollin (Toyota-United) is the Tour of Missouri King of the Mountain.
“As a couple guys have said, I’m turning into Jalabert. Going from the sprinters jersey in California to the climber’s jersey in Missouri, I don’t know, hopefully I can got for the general classification on the next stage race I’ll do.” said Rollin.
Unfortunately, more crashes marred this stage taking out Kelly Benefit/Medifast duo of David Veilleux and Keven Lacombe, Cesar Grajales (Rock Racing) amongst others.
The grand finale of the 2008 Tour will again finish with a circuit race in St. Louis, Missouri’s largest metropoli. The five-lap, 75-mile (121 km) circuit race will finish in front of City Hall.
The only problem could be the severe weather, rain, winds, forecast for Sunday.