Tour de France 2013 stage 6: Greipel wins in a sprint

Darryl Impey takes yellow jersey from Gerrans

This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.

André Greipel took his first win of the 2013 Tour de France on stage 6 in Montpellier on day that saw Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge) become the first African to wear the yellow jersey after his teammate Simon Gerrans was caught on the wrong side of a split in the bunch in the final kilometre.

Greipel got the perfect lead-out from his Lotto-Belisol team to beat Peter Sagan (Cannondale) by a clear bike length in the sprint finish, while his compatriot Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) finished in third with yesterday’s winner Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) having to settle for fourth. The win means that Greipel is now 29 points behind Sagan in the points classification, and the Slovak struck a sullen figure on the podium, disappointed by missing out on another victory.

Lotto-Belisol left it late to take hold of the front of the peloton, waiting until many teams had done their turn. “It was really nervous,” Greipel explained. “I told my team to wait as long as possible. We came to the front with about 2km to go and everyone could see that we had some horsepower. I’m really proud of the team today.”

Many had expected Cavendish to take the glory in Montpellier and the Manxman has history here as the victor in 2011, on the last occasion the Tour visited the city. Cavendish’s task was complicated by a crash with 33km, however, and he was forced to expend valuable energy and take some risks to get back up to the peloton.

Andrei Greipel wins stage 6

In the overall standings, Simon Gerrans handed his lead over to Orica-GreenEdge teammate Daryl Impey, as the South African becomes the first African to wear the Tour’s yellow jersey in the same city where Robbie Hunter became the first African to win a stage back in 2007. Gerrans led out fellow Australian Matt Goss for the sprint, and then conceded five seconds to Impey when the bunch split in the finale. The duo is now split by Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen, who lies three seconds down in second.

“It’s an unbelievable experience,” Impey said after standing on the podium. “If you’d told be that I was going to be wearing this, I would have said you were lying. It is a special moment for me and for African cycling.

“When Simon [Gerrans] got the jersey on stage three, I was happy to do the work for him, but he saw how much it meant to me and how much it would change my life. To see him do the lead-out today shows how much of a champion he is. He could have sat up, but he lead out Gossy [Matt Goss] and I was lucky to be his last lead-out man. I’m now the first for something.”

How it happened

The peloton rides during stage 6

There were two non-starters on the sixth day of the Tour de France. Jurgen van den Broeck’s (Lotto-Belisol) GC hopes were dashed in the finish line crash yesterday when the Belgian injured his knee and was unable to continue. Maxime Bouet (AG2R-La Mondiale), who was also caught up in the crash, abandoned with a fractured wrist.

The riders got under way in fine conditions, with little of the forecast wind immediately apparent. Luis Angel Maté (Cofidis) set himself up for a long day in the saddle when went from the gun, but he found himself with no company. Cofidis have been pretty quiet in this year’s race and Maté is the first rider from the French team to make it into a break. Cofidis are without a win in the Tour since 2008, when Sylvain Chavanel and Samuel Dumoulin took one each.

It wasn’t long before the wind started to pick up and Maté struggled against the gusts. The Cofidis rider had a maximum lead of 5:30 before he sat up and was caught after only 44 kilometres off the front.

With Maté caught there were no riders brave enough or, perhaps, foolhardy enough to try an attack, as the high pace in the peloton in anticipation of crosswinds in the seonc half of the stage put paid to any breakaway attempts. The peloton sat tight as they descended towards the intermediate sprint and the only classified climb of the day. Greipel took full points on this occasion with Cavendish trailing behind him, while Sky’s Kanstantin Siutsou led the bunch over the Col de la Vayède.

Nacer Bouhanni’s (FDJ) Tour de France continued to go from bad to worse as he was dropped on the Col de la Vayède, the only categorised climb of the day. Bouhanni has been suffering from stomach problems since the early days of the race and this spelt the end for the FDJ rider, as the former French champion climbed off with 86 kilometres still to run to the finish. Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) also abandoned shortly afterwards, leaving the Kazakh team with seven riders.

Defending the yellow jersey, Orica-GreenEdge kept the pace of the peloton very high. In fact the pace was so high that many riders missed their musettes in the feed zone. With 33k to go Cavendish crashed and was forced to make a bike change. The Manxman had to chase hard, but helped by teammate Peter Velits, he managed to get back on.

More bad luck was to come for Astana, when Janez Brajkovic crashed with 11 kilometres to the finish. The Slovenian took a long time to climb back on his bike and looked pretty tentative on the run to the finish. He was taken to the Tour’s mobile hospital unit after finishing the stage.

Coming into the final kilometre Lotto-Belisol and Argos-Shimano were the teams fighting for position. Greipel was able to convert his team’s effort into success, beating Sagan and Kittel across the line. After Omega Pharma-QuickStep team had done much of the work during the day, Cavendish was left to his own devices in the final kilometre. Given his efforts in chasing back on, it was perhaps too much for the Manxman, who had to settle for fourth on the day.

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