Peter Sagan continued an impressive Tour de France debut, winning his third stage this afternoon. Having been seriously delayed by a pile-up 25km from the finish, Mark Cavendish was nowhere to be seen.
The 207.5km flat stage from Épernay to Metz saw serious disruption when the peloton took a tumble, many contenders for the overall win losing serious time.
Robert Gesink, Vincenzon Nibali, Denis Menchov, Frank Schleck and 2012 Giro d'Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal will all go into the first mountain stage tomorrow with significant time deficits.
As those caught up in the drama were left by the roadside dazed and without support, the shrunken peloton chased an early breakaway of four riders.
Yesterday's winner Andre Greipel was understood not to be taking part in today's sprint for the line. "He has pain in his shoulder," said Herman Frison, directeur sportif of Greipel's Lotto-Belisol team. "And he won't take part in the sprint today."
But with top sprinters Mark Cavendish, Alessandro Petacchi and Michele Scarponi all caught up in the crash, Greipel sensed victory. His team lined-up, assuming the lead.
As Greipel came to the fore, Sagan sat on his wheel. The Liquigas rider timed his surge perfectly, freely accelerating through. Greipel took second ahead of Matt Goss in third, a stage win still escaping him.
Today's delay cost Cavendish dearly and he now sits fourth in the points classification, trailing Sagan by 80.