Andre Greipel claims third Tour de France stage victory
Chris Froome retains lead following a 15th stage to Valence raced in intense heat
Lotto-Soudal rider Andre Greipel of Germany (R) sprints to win the 5th stage of the Tour de France, France, July 19, 2015. Photograph: Reuters
The 183-kilometres route from Mende to Valence took place in 35C heat and had a familiar winner from the bunch sprints, as German Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) followed his successes on stage two to Zeeland and stage five to Amiens.
John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) was second and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) third, with Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) fourth.
Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) had been hoping for a 27th Tour stage win of his career in Valence, but was distanced early on and his wife said on Twitter that he was ill.
It was likely the last opportunity for the sprinters before next week’s concluding stage in Paris, on July 26.
Monday’s 16th stage is the 201km from Bourg de Peage to Gap, which hosts Tuesday’s rest day ahead of four days in the Alps, which begin on Wednesday.
The general classification contenders had a quiet day in preparation for the stages where the race will be won, as British rider Chris Froome (Team Sky) finished 23rd on the stage and retained his lead in the yellow jersey of three minutes 10 seconds over nearest rival Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
It would have been a welcome breather for Froome, who had urine thrown over him on Saturday’s stage to Mende.
Nine riders, including Briton Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge), formed the day’s breakaway on a route which featured four categorised climbs.
The peloton caught the breakaway on the long run-in from the top of the day’s final climb, which came 56.5km from the summit.
Zdenek Stybar, Cavendish’s team-mate, made a forlorn bid to make a late escape.
But the sprinters’ teams soon reeled him in, fighting for position into the final roundabout, which came around 500m from the finish.
Degenkolb, Sagan and Kristoff were desperately seeking their first win of this year’s race, but instead Greipel powered away to his third and his ninth in all.