Reporting from Gueugnon, France — Mark Cavendish screamed in exaltation Friday, outsprinting game American Tyler Farrar over the line and winning the hot, windy Stage 6 at the Tour de France. Cavendish of Columbia-HTC finished the longest mileage day of racing in 5 hours, 37.42 minutes, just nosing his bike ahead of Farrar who rides for Garmin-Transitions and who is racing despite a broken bone in his wrist.
The 141.4-mile route on Friday began in Montargis and was a draining day with temperatures on the road approaching 100 degrees. The cows in the fields were often seen standing in ponds of water, creating their own swimming pools.
In the last mile or so it was clear that Columbia-HTC and Garmin-Transitions were setting up Cavendish and Farrar but Cavendish had just enough oomph at the end to edge by Farrar.
The overall leaders remained unchanged with Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara of Saxo Bank still wearing the yellow jersey and seven-time champion Lance Armstrong of RadioShack in 18th place overall, 2:30 behind Cancellara.
There had been thunderstorms on the route in the morning and Armstrong noted that it made for an especially steamy day.
"It got to be really warm," Armstrong said, "and when the clouds burned off it left humidity from the storm. Guys suffered, it was a long stage."
Among the other favorites for the overall title, Australian Cadel Evans of BMC Racing is third, 39 seconds behind Cancellara; 2009 runner-up Andy Schleck of Saxo Bank is sixth, 1:09 behind and defending champion Alberto Contador of Spain and the Astana team, is ninth, 1:40 behind.
"[Thursday] was really emotional," Cavendish said. "Today I'm really happy. We're not a team of eight guys and me. I'm just the last rider in a nine-man unit."
Cavendish especially thanked Michael Rogers, who won the Amgen Tour of California, in May.
Armstrong's teammate, Levi Leipheimer, assessed the first six stages of the Tour as hard racing. "This whole first week has been stressful," Leipheimer said. "The speeds have been high, the skills of the riders are improving all the time, nobody gives an inch, every inch of asphalt is taken. The sport is definitely evolving. I'm not going to lie, it's the Tour, already I feel heavy legs but in the final stages, if I've got to go, I can go."