The 167.5 kilometres route from Blaye-les-Mines to Lavaur came down to the expected sprint finish and Cavendish’s HTC-Highroad team controlled it superbly in the torrential rain.
Heading into the finish Mark Renshaw guided Cavendish into position before the Manxman opened up an early sprint and comfortably held off all his rivals, in the process avenging his defeat by Andre Greipel 24 hours earlier.
The victory, combined with the points he took when leading the bunch over the line in the day’s intermediate sprint, puts Cavendish in front as he battles for a first green jersey.
With just two more sprinter-friendly stages to come, he has 251 points, 16 more than Jose Joaquin Rojas and 20 in front of Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto).
“When the guys ride all day like they did yesterday and I don't finish the job, I usually go out the following day and react like I have done today,” he said.
“I asked them to do it again and, when I got the lead-out today, I really hit it. You can see I got the gap with my acceleration and I then made sure I held that gap. The guys were phenomenal today for me because it was a strong breakaway group.”