Peter Sagan wins crash-hit 6th stage of Tour de France

Peter Sagan of Slovakia survived another day blighted by crashes at the Tour de France and claimed a third stage win by edging out Andre Greipel of Germany in a sprint finish on Friday.

Updated: July 06, 2012 22:42 IST
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Metz, France: Peter Sagan of Slovakia survived another day blighted by crashes at the Tour de France and claimed a third stage win by edging out Andre Greipel of Germany in a sprint finish on Friday.

Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland retained the yellow jersey for a seventh day after the 207.5-kilometer sixth stage from Epernay to Metz through the Champagne region.

"I don't know how many stages I can win," Sagan said. "Three is already good, maybe more."

Giro d'Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal of Canada, Frank Schleck of Luxembourg and Mark Cavendish of Britain were among the riders involved in a huge pile-up that split the peloton 26 kilometers from the finish.

The crash left riders and bikes all over the road, but main contenders Bradley Wiggins and defending champion Cadel Evans escaped unscathed. At least three riders dropped out of the race.

The peloton, led by sprint teams from Orica-GreenEdge and Lotto-Belisol, then caught four breakaway riders with just over a kilometer to go.

Greipel, hoping to claim a third consecutive stage win, was the first to make his move in the final section but couldn't resist Sagan's surge.

"I was in a good position, I kept it and then nothing hampered my effort," Sagan said. "I took Greipel's wheel and everything went according to plan."

Competing in his maiden Tour, Sagan was involved in a crash on Thursday but recovered quickly.

As spirited fans cheered the riders by lifting glasses and Champagne bottles on the side of the road, American rider David Zabriskie launched an attack just five kilometers after the start. He was joined by Davide Malacarne of Italy, Romain Zingle of Belgium and Karsten Kroon of the Netherlands.

The four breakaway riders collaborated well and built a four-minute lead over the peloton before Cancellara's teammates moved to the front of the bunch to set up a faster tempo.

But a crash involving about 20 riders after 35 kilometers upset the chase, and the escapee's advantage grew to more than six minutes after 42 kilometers.

Among others caught in the crash were Rabobank team leader Robert Gesink, winner of the Tour of California this year, and former Spanish Vuelta champion Alejandro Valverde of Spain. But all the riders involved in the pileup were able to get back on their bikes.

Another crash slowed the peloton with 60 kilometers to go, with Greipel hitting the ground.

Overall, Cancellara leads the second-place Wiggins — a pre-race favorite who is hoping to become the first British winner of the Tour — by seven seconds. Evans climbed one spot to sixth, 17 seconds back, due to Norway's Edvald Boassen Hagen losing more than two minutes in a crash.

As far as title hopes go, the biggest casualty of the last pileup was Hesjedal. He had entered the stage in ninth place, 18 seconds back, but straggled across the finish with an injured more than 13 minutes behind — all but ending any reasonable hopes of Tour victory for him.

"It was the scariest crash I've ever been in, we were doing like 70 (kilometers per hour)," said Garmin teammate David Millar, who had black chain-grease marks all over his arm. "God knows how it happened, some idiot ..."

The race moves into the mountains on Saturday with a 199-kilometer ride to the ski resort of La Planche des Belles Filles in the Vosges. The stage features the Tour's first category-one climb, a nasty 6-kilometer ascent with the final few hundred meters at an average gradient of 14 percent.

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