British sprint-rider Mark Cavendish won an incident-filled fifth stage of the Tour de France on Wednesday, as Thor Hushovd of Norway retained the leader's yellow jersey.

Cavendish, the winner of 15 stages in previous Tours, had been expected to do well in the early stages of this year's Tour but had yet to win a stage or an intermediate sprint. However, on Wednesday the Briton pushed through the dozen riders sprinting for the line before claiming victory by a bicycle length ahead of Belgium's Philippe Gilbert.

"I had my jump and acceleration today, but it was proper hard," Cavendish told Eurosport television. "My legs had gone, but I didn't give up and I'm really happy with the win."

The 26-year-old starts Thursday's race, a 226.5km effort from Dinan to Lisieux, hoping to win his 17th Tour de France stage.

"Everybody was expecting him to win when we came here. We will race all the more relaxed," his team mate Matt Goss told Reuters.

Wednesday's race was marred by a number of crashes that hindered some of the biggest names in the pack, including Bradley Wiggins and Alberto Contador.

"It was very nervous, and because of that you get a lot of crashes, because there are 200 riders who want to be in front," Hushovd, who retained the jersey for a fourth straight day, told the Associated Press.

The Norwegian retained his one-second lead over Cadel Evans of Australia who won the fourth stage on Tuesday. Frank Schleck of Luxembourg is third overall, 4 seconds back.

Mark Cavendish
Britain's Mark Cavendish claims his 16th Tour victory.

Live coverage

The 98th Tour de France started on Saturday 2 July, with 22 teams racing over 3,430km in 21 stages, culminating with a finish at the Champs-Élysées in Paris -- a full list of dates is available here.

Live online coverage of the Tour is available in the UK and Europe via Eurosport, with subscriptions starting from £3.99. Full race highlights are available every evening on ITV.

In the US, the tour will be shown live on Versus, with repeats and highlights being aired on NBC. The entire event is also available online. NBC is selling a Tour de France all access pass for $29.95, which provides HD video of every stage of the race all the way through to the final leg, when cyclists reach Paris on 24 July. Read more at NBC, via GigaOm.

For viewers in other countries, has a comprehensive list of channels showing the Tour in other regions.