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july 20, 2012 • 11:16 AM • last update 12:47 PM

Wiggins nears Tour title; Cavendish wins stage

Bradley Wiggins (left) maintained his lead in the Tour de France's 18th stage Friday.
Foto: Christophe Ena / AP
 

Bradley Wiggins moved closer to a Tour de France victory, keeping the yellow jersey on a day teammate and British countryman Mark Cavendish won the 18th stage.

Wiggins and Cavendish exchanged a long hug after the finish Friday.

Cavendish, largely overshadowed by his Sky teammate, won a stage for the second time on this Tour. He has 22 stage victories for his career — the same number as seven-time champion Lance Armstrong.

The mostly flat ride along four small hills covered 138 miles from Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde, a transitional stage before Saturday's time trial. The three-week race ends Sunday in Paris.

Wiggins, Cavendish and the Sky team made it look easy with an almost textbook sprint setup. With less than a mile to go, Wiggins took the head of the pack and chased down six breakaway riders, then peeled away.

The Sky train motored ahead and Cavendish — showing he's perhaps the world's most explosive rider — whirred around the remaining escapees in the last several hundred yards and won by a couple of bike lengths.

Luis Leon Sanchez, seeing Cavendish speed by, appeared to sigh with resignation. Cavendish was followed by runner-up Matt Goss of Australia and Peter Sagan of Slovakia in third place.

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