LAVAUR, France — Mark Cavendish nearly lost a shoe in the final stretch but won the rainy 11th stage of the Tour de France in a mass sprint Wednesday, beating Andre Greipel of Germany at the line to seize the leading sprinter's green jersey.
French rider Thomas Voeckler kept the race leader's yellow jersey after the 104.1-mile trek from Blaye-les-Mines to Lavaur. Voeckler finished 75th in the stage but with the same time as the winner.
Cavendish made the most of the last stage designed for sprinters before the race reaches the Pyrenees to claim his 18th stage win at the Tour, his third in this year's race. He won in 3 hours, 46 minutes, 7 seconds.
"It's incredible to have the green jersey. It's the most beautiful jersey in the world," said Cavendish, who finished second in sprint points the last two years. He took the green jersey from Philippe Gilbert and now leads Jose Joaquin Rojas by 16 points.
Cavendish's day was almost ruined when he hit the front wheel of Frenchman Romain Feillu's bike.
"There were 10 of us close together and my shoe banged into his front wheel," he said. "My foot technically came out of the shoe; I had to reach down and slide the ratchet and redo it with 600 meters to go. I was lucky there were no swerves in the peloton. It could have been quite dangerous."
Voeckler said he expects to lose his yellow jersey during today's stage, which takes the riders on the first of a three-day trek across the Pyrenees with a punishing 131-mile ride over the legendary col du Tourmalet and finishing on top of Luz-Ardiden. The mountain stage is likely to be a key moment of the race.
Three-time champion Alberto Contador, who has been hampered by crashes this year, trails third-place Cadel Evans of Australia and Andy Schleck of Luxembourg by 1:41 and 1:30, respectively, heading into the climbs.