- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 16, 2009

SAINT-FARGEAU, France | While Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador put aside their rivalry in Wednesday’s 11th stage of the Tour de France, Tyler Farrar almost became the first American rider to win a stage at this year’s race.

Farrar was within half a bike length of catching British sprinter Mark Cavendish, who clinched his second consecutive win and fourth overall.

“It’s frustrating to come second, but at the same time you can see there are only a few guys going that fast right now,” Farrar said after the stage. “Today was great. It was really fast from [the last] two kilometers [1.24 miles] to 500 meters [from the line].”

The 25-year-old Farrar, a U.S. junior national champion in 2002, upset Cavendish earlier in the season to win the third stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico race in Italy in March.

“I think [Tyler] is the best sprinter of his generation - apart from Cavendish,” Jonathan Vaughters, the manager of Farrar’s Garmin-Slipstream, told the Associated Press.

But Wednesday, Farrar timed his run a bit too late. It was his third top-three finish of the Tour.

“Maybe he’s not quite as fast, and he needs to figure out how to be a little bit more intelligent,” Vaughters said. “And we need to figure out how to be little bit better as a team.”

With the win, Cavendish took possession of the green jersey as best sprinter while Rinaldo Nocentini of Italy held on to the overall leader’s yellow jersey.

“We’re all just trying to figure out how to get around Cavendish,” Vaughters said.

Cavendish also tied British rider Barry Hoban’s tally of eight Tour stage wins - he got four last year but failed to finish the Tour.

“You can talk all day about how great you are at the dinner table,” the 24-year-old Cavendish said. “Success is the biggest motivation for anyone.”

Armstrong, meanwhile, finished safely in the main pack in 54th place and remains in third place overall, with his Astana teammate Contador crossing the line in the 43rd spot and still in second place overall.

The general classification stayed the same, with Nocentini leading Contador by six seconds. Armstrong, who did not stop for reporters waiting by his team bus, trails by eight seconds.

“My favorite to win the Tour de France is Contador,” said Vaughters, a former teammate of Armstrong on the U.S. Postal Service team in the late 1990s.

Thursday’s 12th stage is a 131.4-mile trek from Tonnerre to Vittel featuring six small hills that again could favor sprinters, giving Cavendish the opportunity for a fifth stage win - and Farrar another chance to beat him - before the race heads into a medium mountain stage Friday.

Armstrong’s rivalry with Contador could be reignited then, with a small opportunity for an attack on one tough climb up the Col du Platzerwasel. However, such a run likely be more effective in Sunday’s 15th stage - which features a tough uphill slog on a category 1 climb to Verbier.

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