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Laurent Rebours, Associated Press
Mark Cavendish of Great Britain, foreground left, strains in the last meters to win the eighth stage of the Tour de France cycling race between Figeac and Toulouse, south central France, Saturday.

TOULOUSE, France — Mark Cavendish of Britain won another Tour de France stage Saturday, cutting through the field in a rain-soaked sprint to the finish.

His Team Columbia showed its strength, with Gerald Ciolek of Germany holding on for second ahead of Jimmy Casper of France. Team leader Kim Kirchen of Luxembourg kept the yellow jersey in a race shaken a day earlier by the positive doping test by Manuel Beltran.

The Liquigas team raced without Beltran, who returned to Spain after being questioned and released by police. The squad started amid debate about whether it should have withdrawn, as the Cofidis team did a year ago when Cristian Moreni failed a drug test.

Liquigas team director Roberto Amadio said the team knew nothing about Bletran's doping, and the rider denied he had taken EPO. A second test is being done on Beltran's urine sample from after the first stage.

Team Columbia did an excellent job to organize the sprint while protecting Kirchen's yellow jersey. Cavendish is no climber, and lost time on the biggest of the day's ascents. It took his teammates to bring him back to the main pack.

"To finish with a 1-2 and have Kim in yellow, you can't do better than that," Cavendish said. "When I'm there in the sprint and fired up, normally I can win."

Cavendish, who also won the fifth stage Wednesday, completed the 107 miles from Figeac to Toulouse in 4 hours, 2 minutes, 54 seconds.

This was the last chance for the sprinters for a while, with riders entering the high mountains of the Pyrenees on Sunday. The 139-mile ninth stage from Toulouse to Bagneres-de-Bigorre includes two especially demanding climbs.

Cavendish, who abandoned the Tour during the eighth stage last year, said he was not afraid of the mountains. He plans to make it all the way to Paris, although he doubted he could take the green jersey that is given to the top sprinter.

Four cyclists — Laurent Lefevre, Jerome Pineau and Christophe Riblon of France and Amets Txurruka of Spain — broke away in the first hour and at one point led by five minutes. They were chased down by the teams of the sprinters and the last two were caught with just under two miles to go, setting the race up for the sprinters.

Thursday's stage winner, Riccardo Ricco of Spain, completed the race with scrapes and bruises on his right side after a crash involving Jens Voigt of Germany. Both finished in the main group and lost no time.

Seventh-place David Millar of Britain clawed his way back to the pack despite puncturing a tire near the end.