Haedo wins stage after Cavendish pulls out of race

Friday, September 11, 2009

ST. JAMES, Mo. -- Britain's Mark Cavendish withdrew from the Tour of Missouri on Thursday with an infection his team said had spread to his lungs, becoming the second top contender to drop out of the weeklong race.

Cavendish, a sprint specialist widely considered one of cycling's fastest riders, had been second overall after winning the first two stages and finishing fifth Wednesday in a 114-mile road race won by Norwegian Thor Hushovd.

Team Columbia-HTC announced Cavendish's withdrawal Thursday as the fourth stage was getting under way, a 109-mile road race from St. James to Jefferson City with Hushovd wearing the yellow jersey.

Hushovd, of Cervelo Test Team, battled Argentina's J.J. Haedo as the pack sped through the streets of Missouri's capital city. A pileup in the closing miles felled several riders and slowed others. But Hushovd and Haedo escaped to complete the grueling climb to the finish line adjacent to the Statehouse.

Haedo, of Saxo Bank, edged Hushovd with a powerful uphill kick to win the stage. Italy's Dario Cataldo, of Quick Step, finished third.

On Monday, defending champion Christian Vande Velde suffered a wrist injury in a pileup of more than a dozen riders in St. Louis. He was the last of 118 to finish the opening stage -- a 75-mile circuit race in St. Louis -- and dropped out before Tuesday's second stage, which ended in Cape Girardeau.

Cavendish was a six-time stage winner in this year's Tour de France. Columbia-HTC said he had been fighting the infection since arriving in the U.S. and would rest in Missouri for a few days before returning to Europe.

Haedo will wear the yellow jersey for today's fifth stage, a 19-mile time trial at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia.

The race concludes Sunday in Kansas City, Mo., on a hilly downtown course that includes steep grades on streets flanking the Liberty Memorial, a towering obelisk that stands above the National World War I Museum.

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