(Photos: Yuzuru Sunada)
British sprint king Mark Cavendish made amends for defeat by German rival Andre Greipel by notching up his 18th career victory in the Tour de France in the race's 11th stage on Wednesday.
Frenchman Thomas Voeckler, of Europcar, retained the yellow jersey after the 167.5km stage from Blaye-les-Mines to Lavaur, which ended in a group sprint after an early breakaway was caught 4km from the finish.
Voeckler finished the stage with all the yellow jersey favorites to retain his lead of 1min 49sec on Spaniard Luis Leon Sanchez of Rabobank.
The biggest yellow jersey contenders, Cadel Evans, Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador, sit in third, fifth and 16th places respectively at 2:26, 2:37 and 4:07 behind Voeckler.
Despite a late burst of rain compounding the peloton's bid to catch a six-man breakaway that escaped inside the first 10km, Cavendish's HTC-Highroad were determined not to let the stage win slip away.
With Cavendish tipped for the stage, they were given only scant help in the chase by rival sprinters' teams but in the end he was brought to the line in determined fashion by Australian lead-out man Mark Renshaw.
In a tense finale Greipel tried to get back on to Cavendish's wheel to launch a final burst, but as the German reached top-end speed Cavendish surged over the line to win by over a bike length.
Cavendish had been beaten to victory on stage 10 by Greipel as the German took his maiden win in the race on Tuesday.
After taking possession of the green jersey for the points competition from Philippe Gilbert, the 26-year-old from the Isle of Man was in seventh heaven.
"It's everything I wanted when I came here this year," said Cavendish, who also won stage five in Cap Frehel and stage seven in Chateauroux.
Thursday's 12th stage is the first of three in a row in the Pyrenees and is expected to stage the first skirmishes in the yellow jersey battle between Contador, Schleck and Evans.
Voeckler will wear the jersey at the start, but is not optimistic about keeping it after what should be a thrilling 211km of racing.
"It was quite a stressful day but we kept the yellow jersey so it finished well," said Voeckler. "If we lose the yellow jersey tomorrow then we'll do so knowing that we gave it everything. But to be honest, I fully expect to lose it tomorrow."