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Cavendish sprints to California stage win

  • Story Highlights
  • Briton Mark Cavendish sprints to victory on fourth stage of Tour of California
  • American Levi Leipheimer keeps overall race lead as he aims to defend title
  • Lance Armstrong remains in fourth place overall after finishing in main bunch
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(CNN) -- Briton Mark Cavendish underlined his reputation as the fastest finisher in world cycling with an impressive victory on stage four of the Tour of California.

Mark Cavendish gets the better of Tom Boonen (far right) in the sprint at the end of the fourth stage in California.

Mark Cavendish gets the better of Tom Boonen (far right) in the sprint at the end of the fourth stage in California.

The Team Columbia High-road rider got the better of Belgian Tom Boonen in the dash for the line in Clovis at the end of a 186.3km stage from Merced.

American Levi Leipheimer maintained his grip on the overall classification with Astana team-mate Lance Armstrong also finishing in the main bunch to stay fourth, 30 seconds back.

But not for the first time, it was Cavendish who was celebrating after a frenetic stage over the rolling terrain on the Sierra Mountains.

The 23-year-old had missed out on the previous stage as his lead out man Mark Renshaw took third, but this time he made no mistake.

"This win was massive for me and for the team," Cavendish told the official race Web site. "I was really driven and I wanted this win bad. The team stayed so well together on every climb and it played into our ends today."

Quick Step's Boonen, winner of the season-opening Tour of Qatar, where Cavendish took two stages, had to settle for second place with Juan Jose Haedo of Argentina (Saxo Bank) in third.

But the first dry day of the race was marred by serious injuries to leading riders Kim Kirchen and Oscar Freire. Columbia's Kirchen fractured his right clavicle and scapula while three-time world champion Freire of Rabobank fractured two ribs after crashes..

Leipheimer, defending his Tour of California crown, was content to stay out of trouble, while Armstrong underlined his readiness for the coming season once again.

He wrote on his Twitter blog: "Stage 4 complete. Another tough one! The boys were making life tough for us!! All good though. The sun was a big bonus. Legs are pretty good."

Cavendish and the other leading sprinters will be expected to contest the finish on stage five on Thursday which takes the peloton 216 kilometers from Visalia to Paso Robles over largely flat terrain.

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