The sixth stage of the 2013 Tour de France was ridden at a brisk pace on Thursday, as the 176.5-kilometer route from Aix-en-Provence to Montpellier marked a course particularly suited for sprinters.
Other than a Category 4 climb at around the 68-kilometer mark, the route is relatively flat and, as a result, lent itself to a tight race of cyclists cruising at a rather ambitious pace but conserving enough to burst to the finish with fervor.
Germany's Andre Greipel wound up winning the stage with a time of three hours, 59 minutes and two seconds. He was followed closely by points leader Peter Sagan, compatriot Marcel Kittel, Stage 5 winner Mark Cavendish and Juan Jose Lobato to headline the top five.
Lotto-Belisol teammate Gregory Henderson was 16th, but he played a key role in helping Greipel to clinch the victory. The race's official Twitter page captured Greipel and the leaders as they wrapped up an intense ride:
Greipel's team had to be pleased to see its premier sprinter standing on the podium:
Daryl Impey wound up snagging the yellow jersey for Orica Greenridge by finishing 13th in the stage. The previous individual leader in the general classification, Simon Gerrans, slipped to third place by finishing 48th on Thursday.
As NBC Sports highlighted after the race, Impey became the first South African in the 100-year history of this renowned race to wear the yellow jersey:
Andre Greipel is the winner of Stage 6 at the Tour de France. Daryl Impey takes the yellow jersey, the first South African to lead the race.— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) July 4, 2013
Cavendish was considered a favorite due to his sprinting explosiveness, but he suffered a crash with roughly 32 kilometers remaining.
Though he did have dirt on his shoulder and a torn jersey, he did not appear to be seriously injured, and his speed thereafter reflected that.
Cavendish, who won the last stage that finished in Montpellier in 2011, was able to catch up to the extremely tight peloton before the stage was over, courtesy of savvy strategy by teammate Sylvain Chavanel, who curbed the pace by charging to the front:
Cavendish rejoins the peloton after team-mate Chavanel went to front to slow it down. Cav moving back to front now. 27km left #TDF— Sky Sports Cycling (@SkyCycling) July 4, 2013
The last 10 kilometers wound through the city, and at certain junctures, the peloton could only ride three cyclists across due to the tight maneuvers required.
Eventually, the team led by Cavendish, Omega-Pharma Quick Step, attempted to take control down the final stretch and allow Cavendish to win his second consecutive stage, but it wasn't quite enough.
Henderson proved to be the best at staving off the competition for Greipel's win, and Henderson's fellow Australian, cyclist Leigh Howard, was extremely impressed:
It was surprising that there weren't more issues in the convoluted pack of cyclists. Considering the route took competitors close to the coast of southern France, strong winds usually make conditions dicey. Thankfully, it was a relatively safe ride for most in that regard on Thursday.
The action picks up with Stage 7, which will take the cyclists from Montpellier to Albi on Friday, and the 205-kilometer trek will prove to be more physically arduous with several sharp climbs. It should ultimately allow Sagan to maintain his points lead.
|Rank||Rider||Team||Rider No.||Time (Gap)|
|1||IMPEY Daryl||ORICA GREENEDGE||185||22H 18' 17''|
|2||BOASSON HAGEN Edvald||SKY PROCYCLING||2 ||22H 18' 20'' (00' 03")
|3||GERRANS Simon||ORICA GREENEDGE||181||22H 18' 22'' (00' 05")
|4||ALBASINI Michael||ORICA GREENEDGE||182||22H 18' 22'' (00' 05")|
|5 ||KWIATKOWSKI Michal||OMEGA PHARMA- |
|153||22H 18' 23'' (00' 06")|
|6 ||CHAVANEL Sylvain||OMEGA PHARMA- |
|152||22H 18' 23'' (00' 06")|
|7 ||FROOME Christopher||SKY |
|1||22H 18' 25'' (00' 08")|
|8||PORTE Richie|| |
|6||22H 18' 25'' (00' 08")|
|9 ||ROCHE Nicolas||TEAM SAXO-TINKOFF ||97 ||22H 18' 31'' (00' 14")|
|10||KREUZIGER Roman||TEAM SAXO-TINKOFF||94||22H 18' 31'' (00' 14")|
*For a complete look at the standings, visit LeTour.com.
|3||CAVENDISH Mark||OMEGA PHARMA- |
|4||KRISTOFF Alexander||KATUSHA TEAM||111|
|5||KITTEL Marcel||TEAM ARGOS- |
|6||ROJAS Jose Joaquin||MOVISTAR TEAM||71|
|7||BOASSON HAGEN Edvald||SKY PROCYCLING||66
|8||VAN POPPEL Danny||VACANSOLEIL-DCM||65|
|9||LOBATO DEL VALLE Juan Jose||EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI||51|
|10||KWIATKOWSKI Michal|| |
OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP
*For a complete look at all the general classification and team leaderboards after six days of action, check out LeTour.com.