Andre Greipel won his second stage of the 2012 Tour de France this afternoon, having reeled in an early breakaway within inches of the finish line. Mark Cavendish, overpowered by Greipel's turn of speed, finished in fifth place.
Breakaway riders Mathieu Ladagnous, Pablo Urtasun, Jan Ghyselinck, and Julien Simon rode ahead of the field for 194kilometres of the 196.5km flat stage from Rouen to Saint Quentin.
The four riders were kept within touch of the peloton and, as the main bunch gathered pace, it seemed inevitable that they would be pulled in. Today's stage apparently resided in the hands of the sprinters.
With 30km to go, Team Sky formed their lead-out train alongside a handful of other teams. Sniffing victory today, this was the first time the full team had supported their sprinter Mark Cavendish.
But as the finish line approached, it seemed the peloton had misjudged the breakaway's small advantage over the field.
At 3km to go, the peloton was slashed in half. Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Sharp was jostling towards the front of the peloton when he caught Alessandro Petacchi's back wheel and fell. Green jersey-wearer Peter Sagan was caught up in the crash and also fell.
With the breakaway still ahead of the field, Team Sky's lead-out crumpled. The chasing bunch, snaking down the homestraight, desperately drew themselves towards the four riders, who had reserved energy for their audacious final effort.
Within metres of the line, Orica-GreenEdge sprinter Matt Goss assumed the lead. But his charge soon was soon overshadowed as stage-winner Greipel powered through.
Cavendish, a former teammate of both Goss and Greipel, failed to muster a counter attack and came home in fifth position.
The Briton finished first in the peloton's charge for the intermediate sprint and now lies fourth in the points competition, 36 behind the green jersey of Peter Sagan.
- More about:
- Tour De France