Greipel sprints clear as Cavendish flags at finish
Briton beaten in sprint after crash – Impey first South African to wear the yellow jersey
Andre Greipel of Germany celebrates crossing the finish line ahead Peter Sagan of Slovakia, second, left, and Marcel Kittel of Germany, third, rear in white, to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France into Montpellier. Photograph: Peter Dejong/AP.
Greipel’s Lotto Belisol team spent the guts of their morning meeting determining how to approach the final 2.5km of the stage six finish into Montpellier. Plans were drawn up, practised, made real. Mark Cavendish lost his bike in a crash with 45km left and then his sprint train in the final kilometre.
He seemed in as hot a funk as the 90 degree weather, shouting in his team bus: “There’s something wrong with the f***ing bike.” .
Not since July 5th last year, when Greipel held him on the line, had Cavendish tasted defeat in contention in the final kilometre of a grand tour sprint.
He will hurt for a while, and not just because of the crash that left his national championship shirt ripped, his left arm blackened and his mind on fire.
Cavendish fought hard to get back, at one stage even bunny-hopping on to a roundabout as he made up the 45-second gap to the peloton.
But when it came to the sprint finish there was nothing left in his legs. Greipel held off his challenge easily, and that of Peter Sagan, who was second for the third time in five days. Cavendish was fourth.
Later, when his mind had cleared, Cavendish admitted he was at fault. “I was coming into a tight roundabout when my front wheel went and I ended up in the road,” he said. “It was not necessarily a factor in losing the sprint but it took a lot of energy to get back on. Andre is a cracking sprinter but I am very disappointed.”
There will be other victories, possibly as soon as during today’s 205.5km stage from Montpellier to Albi. But Lotto Belisol now believe they can match Omega Pharma-Quick Step blow for blow.
When Greipel’s lead-out man Greg Henderson was asked why none of Cavendish’s team-mates were able to help the Briton at the finish, his response was combative.
“Because we are the fastest,” he said. “We passed them. They were on the front. When Adam Hansen goes, at 2km, there is no one faster. It puts us in the perfect position.
‘Vital in the train’
“Hansen is vital in the train, to be able to pass the other guys. We had a 20-minute meeting in the bus this morning about the final 2.5km. That’s how precise it is.
“Cavendish is a fast, snappy sprinter,” he added. “Andre is big, powerful, strong. Get Greipel in the right position, he is every bit as quick as Cavendish and [Marcel]Kittel. Cavendish was on his wheel, tried to go beside him, it was a drag race to the line.”
Daryl Impey became the first South African to wear the yellow jersey after his Orica Greenedge team-mate Simon Gerrans lost time when the peloton split at the finish.
“I feel at home in this team,” said Impey. “It’s easy to race for your mates. I never came here thinking I was going to be in the yellow jersey but when we won the team time trial I started dreaming about it.”
Impey also had a few words for Chris Froome, who finished five seconds back and remains in seventh.
“We knew he had an engine but to see his progression is inspiring,” he said. “Chris and I are pretty friendly. We raced at Barloworld together. In South Africa, Chris is a massive brand, everyone knows him, people throw parties for him. He is really big. But he’s actually not a true South African.”
Lance Armstrong tweeted: “So proud of my friend and former team-mate Darly Limpey for being first South African in the yellow jersey.”