Farrar close but Cavendish closer. Manx Missile wins Tour stage 11.

Farrar so close, Cavendish so so fast.

Farrar so close, Cavendish so so fast.

Half a bike length short of glory.

Unfortunately for Tyler Farrar (Garmin),  that’s as close as he got to winner Mark Cavendish. There’s no podium for almost, no kisses for ohh-so-close. The Manx Missile now has his fourth stage victory and eight in all, matching countryman Barry Hoban’s Tour record set back in 1975. We’ll call those the Pre-Manx Years, before England discovered the Boy Racer.

The 192km stage from Vatan to Saint-Fargeau was tailor-made for an upset with an uphill finish that required both speed and strength. After the peloton swept up the two man break, Milram, Garmin, Cervelo and Francaise des Jeux all powered into town, hoping for a mistake from Columbia — hope being the operative word.

Instead, as the French and Yogi Berra would say, it was deja vu all over again. Farrar came off Thor Hushovd’s wheel and appeared to close on Cavendish but crossed the line a frustrated second place, pounding his handlebars. You could say back to the drawing board but nobody has a clue how to beat Cavendish. Food poisoning seems to be the only hope. “Mark, that rabbit pate looks a little funky, careful.”

For the main GC contenders it was another beautiful day in the saddle, rolling through the lush countryside past a dozen charming French towns you’d happily retire in. The only scary moment was a spectator causing a crash with Christian Vande Velde slamming the pavement. After his Giro injuries, Garmin fans held their collective breath. Expect a day or two of recovery for Christian who’s thanking the Cycling Gods that there isn’t a mountain stage tomorrow.

It was also a quiet day for the Armstrong & Contador Show. Not quotes, no tweets, no innuendo. Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Kloden must feel like they’ve got bit parts in a new reality show, something like Riding With The Stars or a cycling version of Survivor. As in, two men are thrown together on the Alps wearing nothing but lycra and only one comes out alive.

Tomorrow, Tyler Farrar will get another chance. He’s close but no cigar. No baguette either.

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