Greipel Sprints to Victory in Stage 6 of Tour de France
Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) has broken Marcel Kittel’s (Giant-Shimano) stranglehold on the bunch sprints at the Tour de France. Today, Greipel charged into the lead with 150 m left to win the rolling, 194-km run from Arras to Reims in 4:11:39. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) finished second, and Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r-La Mondiale) took third. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) remains the maillot jaune.
Rain greeted the riders. Before the start, there was a moment of silence for those killed in World War I. Afterward, the route took the field through Great War battlefields in Arras, the Somme, and the Chemin des Dames (the Sacred Way). Jerome Pineau (IAM Cycling), Tom Leezer (Belkin), Luis Mate (Cofidis), and Arnaud Gerard (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) jumped clear, but the peloton kept the quartet on a short leash. Behind, crashes took Jesus Hernandez (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank), Xavier Zandio (Sky), and Egor Silin (Katusha) out of the race. Other crashes took down Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Tom-Jelle Slagter and Jack Bauer (both from Garmin-Sharp), Arnaud Demare and William Bonnet (both from FDJ.fr), and Rein Taaramae and Daniel Navarro (both from Cofidis). With 75 km left, Nibali asked Giant-Shimano, which was pacing the peloton, to slow down to allow riders who had crashed to get back on.
With 29 km left, one minute separated the bunch from the break. The peloton reeled in Mate, the last fugitive, with 12 km remaining.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step went to the front to set up Mark Renshaw. In the last km, Michal Kwiatkowski, the team’s GC rider, attacked, but the peloton over took him. Greipel countered and held off Kristoff and Dumoulin easily.
Greipel’s victory is a fillip for Lotto-Belisol’s morale. During the early days of the Tour, Marcel Kittel dominated the sprints, and Greipel and his teammates had come under fire for being winless. "This isn’t only a victory for me, but especially for the team,” the German said. “We were criticized the last days, but as a team we always kept believing in a stage win. Lars Bak did a huge amount of work the last days and then it's always nice to thank the guys with a victory. We did have to reorganize ourselves a bit. Bart De Clercq isn't 100% after his crash of a few days ago, and also Greg Henderson was an important man in the sprint train. Of course, I'm relieved. There was some pressure on my shoulders, but as a sportsman you have to be able to handle that. Today I did, by answering on the bike."
In the overall, Nibali leads teammate Jakob Fuglsang by 0:02 and Sagan by 0:44. Stage 7 will not change the general classification, and a sprinter will not win it. The 234-km run from Epernay to Nancy will feature two Category 4 climbs in the last 20 km. Members of a breakaway should battle for victory. Who will win? Sagan? John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano)? Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!