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Le Tour Stage 6: Greipel's Back

After such a rough stage through the wet cobbled secteurs of northern France yesterday, many in the peloton must have been aching for an easy stage. With a flat profile and Vincenzo Nibali's Astana team surely wanting to let another rider keep the yellow jersey warm for a few days, it seemed like the peloton might just get the respite they desired and a break might stay away for the first time in this year's Tour.

Bryn Lennon

But, races rarely go according to plan, and the rain and wind along today's route made for another stressful and hard stage, even if it did all end in a sprint finish. With a break of four up the road, constituted of Tom Leezer (Belkin), Luís Mate (Cofidis), Jérôme Pineau (IAM Cycling), and Arnaud Gerard (Bretagne - Séche Environment), the peloton seemed content to let them sit out there with Giant-Shimano helping keep them within a few minutes. That is, until the wind started. Across the top of the Chemin Des Dames a crosswind blew hard and pressure by Omega Pharma - Quickstep and Saxo-Tinkoff threatened to split the field, but aside from a momentary split caused by a crash that put Peter Sagan and others behind by thirty seconds, nothing happened. Try as they might, the wind was not enough to split the field decisively, and with Nibali always present at the front the incentive to keep pressing hard diminished and the gap to the break went back out from thirty seconds to over a minute.

Soon again, though, the pressure was back on, and while no team was able to split the peloton the pace certainly took its toll on the peloton. After riding superbly on the cobbles yesterday, Thibault Pinot would be caught behind a split with Pierre Rolland, both losing 59 seconds by the end of the day. Similarly, Arnaud Démare and Marcel Kittel suffered in the long windy sections, both dropping off before the finish.

The last of the break was caught with 12 kilometers remaining and the lack of an organized Giant-Shimano leadout meant disarray at the front end of affairs in the final kilometers. Sensing an opening, Michal Kwiatkowski launched under the final kilometer and had a decent gap with 500 meters to go as the Omega Pharma - Quickstep leadout refused to chase its teammate and the remaining shattered leadout pairings appeared weak. Finally, Katusha's final man pulled things close and then Europcar's Kévin Reza dragged everyone back up to Kwiatkowski inside 400 meters to go. As the sprint finally opened up, Andreé Greipel (Lotto - Belisol) hit the front and was never truly challenged, claiming his first stage win in this year's Tour and quite vocally showing he is back after a broken collarbone earlier this season.

Stage Results:

  1. André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol)
  2. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), s.t.
  3. Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R La Mondiale), s.t.
  4. Mark Renshaw (Omega Pharma - Quickstep), s.t.
  5. Peter Sagan (Cannondale), s.t.
  6. Romain Feillu (Bretagne - Séche Environment)
  7. Tom Veelers (Giant - Shimano)
  8. Bryan Coquard (Europcar)
  9. Sep Vanmarke (Belkin)
  10. Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling)

General Classification:

  1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
  2. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), 2"
  3. Peter Sagan (Cannondale), 44"
  4. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma - Quickstep), 50"
  5. Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), 1'17"

Points Classification:

  1. Peter Sagan (Cannondale), 217 points
  2. Bryan Coquard (Europcar), 137 points
  3. Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano), 135 points