For the second day in a row, a high-speed crash in the final kilometers of a sprint stage took out several top sprinters at the Tour de France, and for the second day in a row, German André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) was the fastest to the line.
Aussie Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) finished second, with Argentinean J.J. Haedo (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) taking third.
Unlike Wednesday’s stage, when Mark Cavendish (Sky) went down in a nasty crash, in Saint-Quentin the world champion was in the fight for the finish line this time, though the best he could summon on a slightly uphill drag was fifth.
Those caught up in the crash included American Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp), who hit the deck for the fourth time in six stages, Aussie Jonathan Cantwell (Saxo Bank) and green jersey leader Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale).
Farrar was the first to hit the deck after Italian Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) cut in front of Farrar, coming right, just as Farrar was being squeezed on the left by Tom Veelers (Argos-Shimano).
After the stage, a bloodied Farrar went to the Argos team bus to confront Veelers, who finished sixth.
Also absent from the sprint was Veelers’ Argos teammate Marcel Kittel, who abandoned the stage 40km in after suffering from a stomach bug and knee tendonitis.
The late stage crash happened just as the peloton was about to catch the day’s four-man breakaway, giving hope to the escapees.
First, Jan Ghyselinck (Cofidis) attacked solo from the breakaway with 1.1km to go, and gave concern to the sprint teams; next was Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Pablo Urtasun, also from the breakaway. The bunch, led by Lotto’s Greg Henderson, finally caught Urtasun inside 500 meters to the line. Goss launched his sprint off that catch, but with 300 to go, it was too early, allowing Greipel to pass in the final 50 meters.
“With the lead-out he’s got and the acceleration he has, he’s [Greipel] super hard to come around. The way I’ve got to try and beat him is do what we did today — get the jump on him and go,” Goss
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