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Hunter hangs in

By Mark Etheridge

The sixth stage was all smiles Friday after Thursday’s tears for Mark Cavendish as he roared to his second straight stage victory in the Tour de France cycle race.

The Isle of Man rider won after another classic sprint finish. The win will no doubt erase all pain and frustration of not winning a stage earlier in the Tour. Friday’s stage was set up for a sprint finish, being contested over a mainly flat 227.5 kilometre stretch between Montargis and Gueugnon.

The 25-year-old HTC Columbia rider covered the stage in 5hr 37min 42sec, edging out Garmin-Transitions Tyler Farrar and Italian Alessandro Petacchi. Lampre-Farnese Vini’s Petacchi has already won a stage earlier in this year’ Tour.

Cavendish broke down in tears after winning Stage Five but was all smiles on Friday. “I’m really happy. I’m speaking better today because I was pretty emotional yesterday,” Cavendish said.

Once again Farrar,riding with a broken left wrist since Monday, had a sniff at victory with his South African team-mate Robbie Hunter once again doing everything in his power to give his man the win. “Maybe I’m stupid not to stop after the break, but today I was feeling better.”

Hunter ended ninth in the stage, and he’s been very much in contention during the flattish early stages. He now stays 105th, 8:57 down the field but the team’s efforts see them taking over on top of the team standings after dropping to 10 the previous day.

He said on his Twitter feed: “Team did a magic lead out again.. JD (Julian Dean) & me swapped positions. Ty just lost the wheel in the last right hander..when I wanted to go with 300… Again I say if we can manage to stay together we will win…its often the guy who jumps first who wins..last 2 days its been Cav.”

In terms of the general classification nothing much has changed. On Friday defending champion Alberto Contador was 28th, seven-time champion Lance Armstrong was 38th, and overall race leader Fabian Cancellara was 41st.

Cancellara stays in yellow, he’s had it ever since the the completion of the Prologue and first stage while Spaniard Contador stayed ninth overall, and Armstrong kept his 18th spot.

But there should be changes after the weekend. The climbers come into contention, first on Saturday as the seventh stage warms the field up with six little testers included in the 165.5km ride from Tournus to Station des Rousses.

Then on Sunday the race hits the Alps with the first category one stage climb, the testing Col de le Ramaz, lies in wait on the 189km long stage.