Text by Christian Camerota
Neither the peloton's blistering pace nor the looming shadow of Mont Ventoux kept Mark Cavendish from his fifth stage victory of the Tour De France on Friday.
The sprint-prone Team Columbia star propelled himself to his Stage 19 win, edging Tony Martin and making him the first rider since Lance Armstrong in 2004 to capture that many legs of the race. Cavendish excelled despite an average peloton pace of over 46km per hour (28.5 mph), a speed that consistently increased throughout the 178 km distance.
"It's beautiful," Cavendish said of his accomplishment. "We were just determined. Today was a really, really hard day and we've seen five or six guys from my team just empty their tank and I'm sure they're going to suffer for it tomorrow and for them to put themselves in the box before Ventoux, to enable me to win, shows how special they are. How they worked today was brilliant...just perfect."
Meanwhile, Lance Armstrong finished in the second group, gaining what could turn out to be four key seconds in the chase for the podium on Bradley Wiggins and and Andreas Klöden, who are fourth and fifth overall behind him. He also gained four seconds on Andy Schleck, who is in second behind Tour leader and Armstrong's teammate Alberto Contador.
Though the Tour de France does not officially conclude until Sunday's ride into Paris and parade on the Champs-Élysées, that portion is largely ceremonial. Tomorrow's 167km climb to the top of Mont Ventoux, a mammoth peak of prodigious lore in the Tour's history, will determine the winner.
Riders will return to Mont Ventoux after a seven year absence and for only the eighth time in the Tour's history. The mountain is best known for its grueling ascents and for claiming the life of British cycliist Tom Simpson in 1967.