Tour de France: Andre Greipel wins stage six as Vincenzo Nibali avoids crashes to retain lead
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 11/07/14 8:15pm
Andre Greipel sprinted to his first victory of this year’s Tour de France on stage six as Vincenzo Nibali survived another crash-strewn day to retain his overall race lead.
With Marcel Kittel having been distanced in a technical final 5km, fellow German Greipel took full advantage by beating Alexander Kristoff into second and Samuel Dumoulin into third to claim the sixth Tour stage win of his career.
Nibali followed in the peloton to retain his two-second lead in the general classification over Astana team-mate Jakob Fuglsang, while Peter Sagan remains third overall, 44 seconds back, after finishing fifth on the day.
The stage was once again marred with crashes after a rain shower turned the middle part of the route into an ice rink and triggered three pile-ups in about 20km, forcing Xabier Zandio, Jesus Hernandez and Egor Silin to abandon the race with serious injuries.
Greipel said: “At the end there was not a leadout train, but with all the roundabouts it was not easy to stay together. With 250m to go I said to myself, 'I go full now’.
“I’m really happy that I got the stage win. There was a lot of pressure on us and finally we have it. Whoever was doubting Lotto Belisol got a good answer today.”
The 194km stage took the riders from Arras to Reims and while the profile was flat but for a couple of small climbs, the weather once again had a major say in proceedings.
It has been another very stressful day. It was very nervous in the peloton, lots of falls, but we managed to avoid them.
The first two crashes followed within 1km of each other after a sudden rain shower and although small splits in the peloton briefly opened, Nibali asked Giant-Shimano, who were riding on the front for Kittel, to slow down and the pack subsequently regrouped.
Splits in the bunch
However, a third crash created another split and with a crosswind now buffeting the bunch, this time the gap grew out to more than 30 seconds.
Sagan had been one of the riders who fell and found himself marooned in the chase group, but thanks to the efforts of his Cannondale team-mates and a subsequent slowing of the pace up ahead, the race came back together for a second time.
But there were yet more splits in a technical final 5km containing nine roundabouts, and this time it was Kittel who found himself irretrievably cut adrift, opening the door for Greipel to claim his 13th win of the season with a well-timed burst.
Nibali said afterwards: “It has been another very stressful day. It was very nervous in the peloton, lots of falls, but we managed to avoid them. My team were superb and kept me very safe throughout. It was tough because there was a lot of crosswind out there, but all in all, I am happy.”
Stage six result
1 Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol, 4:11:39
2 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha, same time
3 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, st
4 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step, st
5 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale, st
6 Romain Feillu (Fra) Bretagne-Seche Environnement, st
7 Tom Veelers (Ned) Giant-Shimano, st
8 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Europcar, st
9 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Belkin, st
10 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM Cycling, st
1 Vincenzo Niabli (Ita) Astana, 24:38:25
2 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, +2secs
3 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale, +44
4 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, +50
5 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Trek Factory Racing, +1:17
6 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol, +1:45
7 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Belisol, same time
8 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky, +1:54
9 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp, +2:05
10 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar, +2:11
18 Alberto Contador (Spa) +2:37