| 11.7°C Dublin

Roche in Cavendish's corner after stage win

Mark Cavendish shed his bad boy image when he laid bare his vulnerable side by bursting into tears after winning the fifth stage of the Tour de France yesterday.

The tears rolling down the Briton's cheeks as he stood on top of the podium finally allowed him to release all the tension that had been building up for months in the run up to the most famous road race.

"People who called me a bad boy simply don't know who I am," said the Isle of Man native after his first victory in the Tour this year, his 11th over three years. Even French sports minister Roselyne Bachelot was moved to comment.

"He's not a bad boy, he's a good boy," she said. "Riders are not bad boys, they are sweethearts."

The 25-year-old, widely considered as the most gifted sprinter of his generation, was brought back down to earth this year when a dental infection ruined his early season preparation and forced him to change his pre-Tour plans.

The pressure of getting back to top form and the frustration of struggling to do so led to a few incidents which earned him his bad boy reputation.

This year, his two finger salute after his victory in a stage of the Tour de Romandie fuelled controversy and other riders demanded he should be penalised after he caused a crash during the Tour of Switzerland.

"I know Cav since we were Under-14 and I have always got on well with him," said Ireland's Nicolas Roche, who is in 11th position. "He gets a bit of stick for some of the things he does but Cav is very emotional. To be a sprinter like that, you need a bit of an ego."

Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) retained the yellow jersey ahead of Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) in second and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) in third after six days of action. Alberto Contador (Astana) stayed ninth, with Lance Armstrong (Team RadioShack) 18th.

Roche added: "It would have been stupid for me to lose the 40 or 50 seconds I earned on the cobbles the other day by not being alert in a bunch sprint today, so I stayed close enough and finished 14th on the stage, with our sprinter Lloyd Mondory a few places ahead of me in ninth."