Cavendish of the HTC-Columbia team threw his hands into the air as he won stage five, a 116-mile ride between Epernay and Montargis over flat terrain. Later, he wept atop the winner’s podium. The Briton, who won six stages last year, has struggled to find form this season.
Seven-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong and other race contenders didn’t compete for leading places, remaining in the main bunch. Cancellara of Team Saxo Bank remains in the lead by 23 seconds from Britain’s Geraint Thomas of Team Sky. Australia’s two-time runner-up Cadel Evans of BMC Racing is third, 16 seconds further back.
Armstrong dropped to 18th from fifth overall two days ago after a puncture and is still in that position, 2 minutes, 30 seconds off the lead. Defending champion Alberto Contador is ninth overall, 1 minute, 40 seconds behind Cancellara.
The Tour de France enters the mountains in two days with a stage that ends with a nine-mile climb to Station des Rousses, a ski resort. The race ends July 25 in Paris.