This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) sprinted to victory at stage five of the 2012 Tour de France in the town of Saint-Quentin for his second consecutive stage win. He took advantage of a flat and fast run-in and swooped very late to deny Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEdge), JJ Haedo (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) and Mark Cavendish (Sky).
"I'm happy because I won another stage in the Tour de France," said Greipel. "There was a bit of a crash and I was behind it at 3k to go, but Greg Henderson was waiting for me. The Lotto-Belisol train was working perfectly today. It was a hard sprint, I think it was one of the hardest sprints I've ever done."
For the second consecutive day the finale was marred by a large crash less than 3km from the finish, with the most high profile victim being points leader Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale), who was well-placed at the time but was forced to check his momentum dramatically as several riders hit the floor around him. Ultimately a downed bike caused the Slovak to tumble, leaving contusions on his left elbow and buttock, but he was more concerned with the lost points toward the green jersey competition.
"I missed a great opportunity, especially for points toward winning the green jersey," said Sagan. "Unfortunately, every time there is a sprint the script is always the same: everyone wants to stay ahead, everyone thinks they have good legs and do maneuvers that cause crashes. We are at the Tour de France and a victory here is worth a lot, but the risks are just too high. Though the thought that I could have been hurt worse helps me overcome the sorrow."
Unlike the previous stage, Cavendish (in yellow helmet) kept it upright in the final kilometres to contest the sprint. Sagan and Farrar, however, did not
Garmin-Sharp's Tyler Farrar, his arm dripping blood after being taken down in a squeeze between Tom Veelers (Argos-Shimano) and a Lampre rider, was furious following his second major spill in as many days. He attempted to enter the Argos team bus to have it out with Veelers, but was pulled away by team staff.
Veelers explained via the team's press release: "Tyler wanted to get in the wheel of Koen de Kort, but I was already there. He didn't respect my train, but that's his problem. I get why he’s upset, because a crash is never very pleasant."
Emotions are running high as the pressure is on for the sprinters, who have just one flat stage left tomorrow before the race hits the hills on Saturday. The next possible sprint stage after stage 6 to Metz comes on July 13, when stage 12 hits a plateau after a cat 3 climb near the finish, or the following stage to Le Cap d'Agde.
Cavendish, still smarting from his crash the previous day, did not blame his injuries on the fifth place finish, rather he said he intentionally positioned himself behind in order to get a run at the finish but found himself too far back.
"The final didn't work out quite how we wanted it but the guys were all there and they did a good job," said Sky director Sean Yates. "We upped the ante and next time it will be better. Cav dropped back a bit at the finish and had a bit too much work to do at the end.
"We need to keep this going starting tomorrow and we will look to keep Bradley (Wiggins) safe and set Mark up heading into the finish."
Tour de France stage 5 highlights (Courtesy ASO)
After today's stage Sagan adds only 8 points (won in the intermediate sprint) to his booty for the green jersey. The ranking sees him still in first place with 155 points, followed by Goss, who moves closer at 137, Greipel (winner today) at 132 and Cavendish at 119, although Goss said that he doesn't want to gain an advantage because of crashes.
"It's not the way I want to take points, I don't want to gain in the competition because someone has crashed but we did definitely take back quite a lot of points today," Goss said.
Meanwhile, it was another quiet day for the general classification contenders, who steered clear of the sprinters in the finale.
The overall race lead remains with Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan), who expects to concede the yellow jersey on the first major uphill finish in La Planche des Belles Filles on Saturday.
"Everything is possible in life if you believe in it. However, in my opinion, from what I’ve seen of the Planche des Belles Filles climb and what I’ve heard about it, it’s a little bit too hard for me," Cancellara admitted.
Cancellara started and finished stage 5 in the yellow jersey
It was another hectic day in Northern France, with more wind, more narrow roads and nerves. The only abandon of the day came from Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), who finally gave up after nearly a week of fighting gastroenteritis and knee pain.
The majority of the race was dominated by a four-man breakaway, who went clear just three kilometres into the stage. Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ-BigMat), Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Jan Ghyselinck (Cofidis) and Julien Simon (Saur-Sojasun) rode on the front for over 190km.
Ladagnous took the maximum points at the day's intermediate sprint in Breteuil as the four leaders rolled through the line. Behind, the peloton's green jersey battle continued, with Cavendish getting the better of Goss, Renshaw and Sagan for the points.
The four leaders eked out an advantage of 5:40 but after the sprint the elastic began to contract again, and they were reeled in steadily by the chasing sprinters' teams.
The four kept working together to hold a handful of seconds inside the 3km to go banner, and Ghyselinck panicked: he made a bold attack for the finish line with just over 1km to go. The Belgian could not hang on, however. Urtasun was able to come by, but he, too, was caught and left behind by the marauding pack in the final 100 metres.