Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) won his second consecutive stage of this year’s Tour de France after another crash-affected sprint into St. Quentin.
In a final few kilometres complete with puddles and a speed-sapping rise in the road, the German powerhouse showed a deft touch to navigate his way to the line after yet more fine work from his Lotto team.
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After catching the four man breakaway just 600m from the line, Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) came a close second and Juan Jose Haedo (Saxo Bank – Tinkoff Bank) was third.
“It was a bit crazy because there was a crash with three kilometers to go,” Greipel said at the finish. “But Greg Henderson brought me back up to the front and the team was working perfectly.”
“It was a hard sprint: one of the hardest I’ve ever done!”
Mark Cavendish (Sky) had to settle for fifth after he ran out of team-mates with one kilometre to go and quickly lost position at the head of the bunch. His effort to bridge up to Greipel and Goss, the latter opening up the sprint, seemed to take its toll on the World Champion who was missing his trademark kick to come around his rivals.
On what was already a bad day for Garmin-Sharp, one of their riders appeared to cause a crash in the final 2km which took out green jersey Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale), although the young Slovakian was unharmed.
It later was confirmed that the Garmin rider was Tyler Farrar, whose diabolical Tour took another bad turn as he was boxed in by two riders from Lampre-ISD and Argos-Shimano and fell. He crossed the line in last place and covered in cuts and grazes.
The General Classification with Fabian Cancellara at its head remained unchanged as the three kilometre rule meant all riders finished on the same time. The Swiss star has now won the most yellow jerseys of any rider who hasn’t won the Tour.
With no classified climbs on offer, today was the first true sprint stage in the 2012 Tour, although the day’s break of Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ-BigMat), Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Jan Ghyselinck (Cofidis) and Julian Simon (Saur-Sojasun) clearly had other ideas as they forged clear in the first kilometre.
After Greipel’s win into Rouen yesterday, it was Lotto-Belisol who took up the chase once the gap had stretched to 5’40” at the 52km mark.
Cavendish whetted the appetite for the finish as he took fifth in the intermediate sprint behind the break and as the finish approached and the thunderstorms in the air abated, more and more teams formed their trains including Sky and BMC.
The British team with Cavendish and Edvald Boassan Hagen at the rear were clearly working for Wiggins and the relative safety of the 3km mark, as the World and Norwegian champions found themselves somewhat isolated at the front of the bunch with just over one kilometre to go.
With the break dangling ahead of the peloton until the final few hundred kilometres, it was a thrilling finish to a routine stage as a well-drilled Lotto lead-out delivered their on form sprinter to the win.
Tour de France 2012, stage five: Rouen to St. Quentin, 198.5km
1. Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Belisol in 4h 41′ 30″
2. Matt Goss (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
3. Juan Jose Haedo (Arg) Saxo Bank – Tinkoff Bank
4. Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Cofidis
5. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Sky
6. Tom Veelers (Ned) Argos-Shimano
7. Oscar Freire (Esp) Katusha
8. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre ISD
9. Sébastien Hinault (Fra) Ag2r L Mondiale
10. Gene Yohann (Fra) Europcar all at same time
Overall classification after stage five
1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan 24h 45′ 32″
2. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky at 7 sec
3. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma QuickStep at same time
4. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 10 sec
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky at 11 sec
6. Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha at 13 sec
7. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 17 sec
8. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 18 sec
9. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp at same time
10. Andreas Kloden (Ger) Radioshack-Nissan at 19 sec
Bradley Wiggins and Christian Knees
Fabian Cancellara and Jens Voigt
Andre Greipel wins
Tyler Farrar limps home
Tour de France 2012: Coverage index