|The Tour de France's 10th stage ended with a neck-to-neck sprint [AFP]
The 10th stage of this year's Tour de France ended with a furious sprint in which German Andre Greipel edged his former teammate and bitter rival Mark Cavendish by a wheel's length to steal a much-needed victory for his Omega Pharma-Lotto team.
French rider Thomas Voeckler retained the leader's yellow jersey on Tuesday after staying in line with the main pack for most of the 158km route from Aurillac to Carmaux.
Defending champion Alberto Contador and his main Tour rivals - Luxembourg's Andy Schleck and Australia's Cadel Evans - all finished without losing any time to one another, the AP news agency reported.
Schleck, runner-up to Contador in the last two Tours, remained 1 minute, 30 seconds ahead of the Spaniard in the overall standings, and 11 seconds behind two-time Tour runner-up Evans.
Greipel's win comes two days after Jurgen van den Broeck, leader of Belgium's Omega Pharma-Lotto team and a podium contender this year, was injured in a massive crash during a steep descent and forced to pull out of the competition.
Britain's Cavendish appeared poised to earn his third stage win of this year's Tour, and 18th of his career, when he turned into the final straight and began his sprint to the finish line.
Greipel timed an exquisite attack, however, racing past Cavendish in the last 20 metres. The German sprinter was beaten by Cavendish in Friday's seventh stage after he likewise began his sprint too early.
Cavendish and Greipel feuded in public for most of last year when they were both on the HTC-Highroad team.
"He's the best sprinter on the Tour de France, and to be able to beat him is a big moment for me,'' Greipel told reporters.
"The nine first days of the Tour were hard for us. We told ourselves that we had a rest day and we had to keep fighting.''
Spanish rider Jose Joaquin Rojas of Spain was third. All finished in a time of 3 hours, 31 minutes, 21 seconds.
Overall leader Voeckler was near the front of the pack as the sprint began.
He told AP he was glad to complete the stage without mishap. The Tour's first nine stages were marked by crashes and injuries.
"The yellow jersey comes with a lot of tension, a lot of stress," Voeckler said. "But in terms of the fans it's a fabulous thing."
Wednesday's 11th stage is another flat route for sprinters before riders reach the grueling climbs of the Pyrenees. The stage will take the riders over 167km from Blaye les Mines to Lavaur.