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Cavendish sprints to Le Tour victory in brutal fifth stage

Janez Brajkovic is treated after crashing out of the fifth stage of the Tour de France. He later retired.
Janez Brajkovic is treated after crashing out of the fifth stage of the Tour de France. He later retired.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mark Cavendish wins fifth stage of Tour de France
  • The British rider narrowly beat a pack of riders in a frenzied sprint finish
  • Several riders were injured during the stage
  • It was Cavendish's 16 stage win of his career

(CNN) -- British rider Mark Cavendish won the fifth stage of this year's Tour de France after a mass sprint saw him narrowly beat Belgium's Philippe Gilbert and Spain's Jose Joaquin Rojas.

Cavendish, 26, a sprint specialist who has now won 16 stages of the Tour de France since 2008, edged what had been an eventful, crash-filled race.

Both Janez Brajkovic and defending champion Alberto Contador fell during the 164.5 kilometer stretch from Carhaix to Cap Frehel, the former being taken to hospital with head injuries.

The Slovenian later retired from the race altogether.

Norwegian Thor Hushovd retained the leader's yellow jersey after finishing tenth.

I have put every other race on the back foot to be good at the Tour de France
--Mark Cavendish

"I think what the organizers have done this year is to make it harder to have a proper bunch sprint. That's because we have been dominating in the last years," Cavendish, widely regarded as the best sprint cyclist in the sport, told the Tour de France's official website shortly after the race.

"The reason why we dominate the sprint at the Tour de France is, well, for me personally I have put every other race on the back foot to be good at the Tour de France."

This year will be the 98th edition of the race, the most famous in cycling and one of the world's best known sporting events.

Cavendish, who was disqualified from an intermediate sprint in the third stage for illegally butting Hushovd -- who was also censured -- will find the next stage much harder: the sixth, 226.5 kilometer stage between Dinan and Lisieux is Le Tour's longest.

"That was a proper hard finish," Cavendish admitted.

"Those last couple of hundred meters my legs were going...I'm really happy with that."