Tour de France Stage 5: Greipel Wins Again
A pancake-flat course, a bunch sprint and a last-minute crash. Sound familiar?
Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) took today's stage five of the Tour de France in a bunch sprint, repeating his performance from yesterday. Taking advantage of a relatively flat run-in and a large crash in the final 3 km, the German rider outlasted Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEdge), JJ Haedo (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) and world champion Mark Cavendish (Sky). "I'm happy because I won another stage in the Tour de France," said Greipel afterwards. "There was a bit of a crash and I was behind it at 3 km to go, but [lead-out man] Greg Henderson was waiting for me. It was a hard sprint, I think it was one of the hardest sprints I've ever done."
Just two days before the Tour climbs into the Vosges and Jura mountains, today's 197 km (122-mile) stage was the flattest yet. A four-man breakaway led by Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ-BigMa) snuck away only 3 km from the start and bravely held out until Belgian Jan Ghyselinck (Cofidis) was swept up by the sprinters in the final 100 meters.
The turn-heavy finish in Saint-Quentin wasn't a factor in today's crash on a straightaway just 2.8 km from the line. Caught up in the scrum were points leader (and two-stage winner) Peter Sagan and American sprint champ Tyler Ferrar (Garmin-Sharp). It looked like Ferrar's front wheel was clipped by Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD), setting off the pile-up. This was Ferrar's fourth crash in six days of riding, and he looked to hit the deck hard.
Overall leader Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) retained the yellow jersey, which he's held since Saturday's time trial prologue. Rounding out the top five are Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), both at nine seconds, young American Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing) at 12 seconds and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) at 13 seconds. 2011 champ Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) is 7th, just 19 seconds behind the lead.
As always, the GC picture will become more clear when the race hits the mountains on Saturday. As of now, it's still anybody's game. GC favorites Wiggins and Evans are very much in the hunt, and Van Garderen is sitting pretty in fourth. Another day to look forward to is Monday, when the 41.5-km individual time trial will help further sort the top contenders.