CARMAUX, FRANCE // Andre Greipel, the German sprinter, won the 10th stage of the Tour de France yesterday, beating his former teammate Mark Cavendish by a wheel's length in a dash to the line and capturing a leg of cycling's showcase race for the first time.
Thomas Voeckler, of France, kept the yellow jersey after nestling safely in the main pack for most of the 158km route from Aurillac to Carmaux.
Today's 11th stage is another flat route for sprinters before riders reach the gruelling climbs of the Pyrenees.
Cavendish seemed to have sealed his third stage victory of this year's Tour, and 18th of his career, when he turned into the final straight. But Greipel stormed past him in the last 20 yards with a late burst and punched the air in delight as he crossed the line. On the podium, he looked tearful as he celebrated.
"It's the moment I've been waiting for all year," said Greipel, who rides for the Omega Pharma-Lotto team. "It's the most beautiful race in the world and the most famous. To win here is sensational."
Jose Joaquin Rojas of Spain was third.
Cavendish and Greipel feuded last year when they were both on the HTC-Highroad team. Greipel was beaten to the line by Cavendish in the seventh stage last Friday after being the one to attack too soon.
"He's the best sprinter on the Tour de France, and to be able to beat him is a big moment for me," Greipel said.
"The nine first days of the Tour were hard for us. We told ourselves that we had a rest day and we had to keep fighting."
An early breakaway of six riders was cut down to three when the Frenchmen Arthur Vichot and Sebastien Minard were joined by Italy's Marco Marcato at the base of the 4km ride up Cote de Villefranche-de-Rouergue.
The pack caught Vichot and Minard with about 17.7km remaining, leaving only Marcato in front. But Marcato's lead did not last much longer. A new group of five, featuring the yellow jersey of Voeckler and green shirt of Philippe Gilbert, surged ahead in the last 9.6km.
Gilbert, the winner of the opening stage, then accelerated ahead in a bid for a spectacular victory. But the Belgian had far too much road left, and the pack soon swallowed him up.
Alberto Contador, the defending champion, said that his injured knee is "feeling better and better" after coming through the stage unscathed. The three-time Tour champion fell Sunday after his handlebars became tangled with Vladimir Karpets's bike, damaging the same right knee he hurt earlier in the race.
Contador, who is in 16th place overall, said: "At the beginning of the stage, I wasn't sure what to think, but as the stage progressed my knee was feeling less sore."
Dave Brailsford, the Team GB cycling leader, said that Cavendish and the top British riders would use next year's Tour de France as part of their training for the London Olympics.
Brailsford made it clear, however, that the 2012 Games were the top priority.
"Arguably, the best preparation is to ride the Tour de France, come out of that and then into London," Brailsford, who is also the manager of Team Sky in the current Tour told reporters at a British Olympic Association (BOA) presentation.
"So it could well be that we see quite a number of British riders riding the Tour de France in preparation for the Olympic Games."
Cavendish has a chance to be Britain's first gold medallist next year with the men's road race on the opening weekend of the Games.
The Manxman stood out at the last Beijing Games as the only member of Britain's track cycling team to return without a medal. British cyclists won seven out of 10 track titles in Beijing.
"We've got some pretty good ideas about what we want to do and how we want to do it. The one key thing is that we will be 100 per cent focused on the Olympic Games," Brailsford said.
"The thing you've got to remember about Mark is that the Tour de France is going to be there every year. The London Olympic Games are going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I think he'd happily sacrifice one for the other."