An emotional Mark Cavendish raced to victory in the fifth stage of the Tour de France on Thursday. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Britain's Mark Cavendish broke down in tears after winning the fifth stage of the Tour de France Thursday for his first victory in this year's race.

Cavendish, who won six stages last year and four in 2008, won his first stage of the 2010 edition in Montargis, France, on the mostly flat 187.5-kilometre trek from Epernay to Montargis. The main contenders for the overall title cruised home afterward in the pack, with the whole field clocking four hours 30 minutes 50 seconds.

The 25-year-old Cavendish thrust his arms skyward and hugged teammates in the winner's circle after beating Gerald Ciolek of Germany into second and Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen into third.

Cavendish had faded in a sprint finish in Wednesday's stage won by Italy's Alessandro Petacchi, and bared his frustration by hurling his bike after the fourth stage.

"It's incredible, it's been a long time," said Cavendish of his stage win. "Yesterday wasn't that great for us. I let the guys down."

Fabian Cancellara retained the leader's yellow jersey, and the overall standings didn't change. Victoria's Ryder Hesjedal remained in fourth place after finishing 90th. Michael Barry of Toronto was 56th and sits 61st overall.

Defending champion Alberto Contador of Spain was 19th in the stage, and seven-time tour winner Lance Armstrong 30th.

Breaking down during a TV interview, after holding his face in his hands, HTC Columbia rider Cavendish admitted the "pressure was immense," said he had "been through a helluva lot" and denied that he had thrown his bike down a day earlier.

"I just want to thank all the people who supported me," he added.

Among the top contenders behind Cancellara, Cadel Evans of Australia holds third place, 39 seconds back, and last year's runner-up Andy Schleck of Luxembourg is sixth, 1:09 back. Contador is ninth, 1:40 back, and United States rider Armstrong is 2:30 back in 18th.

The Tour ends July 25 in Paris.