Andre Greipel outsprinted Mark Cavendish to claim victory on stage six of the Tour de France as South Africa’s Daryl Impey took over in the race leader’s yellow jersey today.
German rider Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) used his brute strength to prevail on a slightly uphill finish in Montpellier, with Peter Sagan (Cannondale) finishing second for the third time in the Tour and Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) clinching third.
Cavendish (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) had to settle for fourth on a day in which he also suffered a heavy crash 30km from the finish. Although he was able to remount and continue riding, he had to change bike and burn valuable energy chasing back on to the peloton.
Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE) becomes the first African to wear the yellow jersey after the pack split late on, with previous race leader Simon Gerrans crossing the line five seconds down on his team-mate in the second group.
Chris Froome (Team Sky) also lost five seconds to Impey, but retains seventh place in the general classification and did not lose time on his main rivals for overall victory, as Alberto Contador, Joaquim Rodriguez, Alejandro Valverde and Cadel Evans were also caught out.
The stage had been expected to be battered by winds coming off the Mediterranean and although the anticipated splits in the peloton did not materialise, there was tension among the riders throughout the day.
Luis Mate (Cofidis) broke away straight from the gun and opened out a gap of over five minutes, but with no other riders having gone with him, he quickly saw the folly of his situation and sat up.
Teams consequently fought hard to stay at the front in order to be well-positioned in the event of a split, and while the pace remained high, they avoided incident until Cavendish’s crash.
He fell heavily on his left-hand side and needed a new bike, but his Omega Pharma — Quick-Step team-mates quickly rallied to his aid and the 28-year-old Briton was able to rejoin the peloton 3km later, albeit at the expense of vital energy reserves.
Omega Pharma — Quick-Step soon reformed their train and led the peloton into the final 3km, but then became disorganised and allowed Lotto-Belisol to take over.
Suddenly short of team-mates, Cavendish was playing catch-up entering the final 500m and despite setting off in pursuit of the charging Greipel, the German had the inside line and his victory never looked in doubt.
Greipel also won the day’s intermediate sprint to move up to second in the points classification behind Sagan, with Cavendish now third. (Sky)