Thursday 5 July 2012
Last Update 5 July 2012 3:38 am
ROUEN, France: German rider Andre Greipel prevailed in a sprint finish to claim the fourth stage of the Tour De France here yesterday with Fabian Cancellera holding onto the leader’s yellow jersey.
The closing stages were marked by a multi-bike pile-up less than three kilometers from the line with British sprint king Mark Cavendish among the casualties.
With the main peloton held up by the crash Lotto rider Greipel took the honors after the 214km ride from Abbeville to the historic Normandy cathedral city of Rouen.
Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi came in second from Dutch rival Tom Veelers.
This was the 29-year-old Greipel’s second stage win in the race after he opened his Tour de France account last year in Carmaux, and his 14th overall of the year.
As expected a day after the rigours of the first crash-hit stage on Tuesday left skin on the road and led to three abandons, the early breakaway which formed almost immediately was allowed to race on unhindered. Japanese Yukiya Arashiro (Europcar) and French pair David Moncoutie (Cofidis) and Anthon Delaplace (Suar-Sojasun) were no threat to the bunch and soon built a maximum lead of nearly nine minutes.
With a pancake flat finish, however, they were at the mercy of the sprinters’ teams.
They began to put riders at the front of the bunch to prepare the chase, which began in earnest 30 km after Cavendish had beaten his sprint rivals for the green jersey points at the intermediate sprint at 140 km.
Twenty kilometers further on, the day’s first crash took down Australian Jonathan Cantwell (Saxo Bank) and Frenchman Mickael Cherel (AG2R), but they were soon back on their bikes chasing.
It took an extra effort, however, for yellow jersey contender Vincenzo Nibali to rejoin the peloton after he suffered a flat tire and had to wait for a new bike before being paced back to the bunch by two Liquigas teammates.
With 60 km remaining the trio’s lead had dropped to 5:00 and was almost halved by the time Arashiro took advantage of a small descent to try and distance his breakaway companions.
His effort did not last long and the front trio were back together for a desperate bid to get to the finish.
But with sprinters’ teams like Orica-GreenEdge and Lotto beginning to up the pace their lead dropped to below a minute for the first time with 15 km to race, with the closing stages marred by the second major crash of the 99th Tour.
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