REIMS, France, (Reuters) – Andre Greipel emerged from the shadow of fellow German Marcel Kittel to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France, a 194-km ride from Arras yesterday.
Norway’s Alexander Kristoff was second and Frenchman Samuel Dumoulin took third place as Italian Vincenzo Nibali retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey.
Lotto-Belisol rider Greipel, who had a mediocre start to the Tour, struck some 200 metres from the line as the peloton looked disorganised after Kittel, winner of three stages this year, suffered a mechanical problem in the final kilometre.
(It was a) really nervous stage, the team was great. I’m Really happy to get the stage win. The confidence was always there,” said Greipel.
Australian Richie Porte, the new Team Sky leader after defending champion Chris Froome crashed out on Wednesday, and Alberto Contador lost key team mates as Spaniards Xabier Zandio and Jesus Hernandez both abandoned after falling.
As French president Francois Hollande joined Tour boss Christian Prudhomme in his car, crosswinds on the Chemin des Dames ridge – scene of three World War One battles – split the peloton.
French champion Arnaud Demare and green jersey holder Peter Sagan were trapped behind but eventually made it back into the peloton, which was split again some eight km from the finish.
France’s Thibaut Pinot, one of the riders with credible general classification ambitions, was caught behind and lost about one minute.
The Tour de France commemorated the centenary of World War One with the peloton’s suiveurs (followers) invited to wear a ‘Bleuet de France’ cornflower in memory of the soldiers who died during the 1914-18 war.
The white jersey for the best Under-25 rider was also emblazoned with a Bleuet de France.
The peloton also paid tribute to past Tour riders, including winners Francois Faber, Oscar Lapize and Lucien Petit Breton, who died during the war.