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The sixth stage of the Tour de France ended with Peter Sagan taking his third win of the event, snatching it from under the nose of Andrei Greipel who was himself looking to make it three wins in three days. But it was the last of a series of crashes which shaped the day and perhaps the race.
Above, race leader Fabien Cancellara shadows Bradley Wiggins (right)
The expected break went clear after only a handful of kilometres, with David Zabriskie (GRS) the man who initiated the move. He was joined by Davide Malacarne (EUC), Romain Zingle (COF) and Karsten Kroon (STB ) and they built up a lead of almost 7 minutes before the peloton began to pull them back.
However, the story of the day came after a series of crashes culminated in a big one at 25km to go. Passing between two fields, the field suddenly piled up half way down the peloton, riders flying into drainage ditches on either side.
The crash delayed a number of leading contenders, including Frank Schleck, Ryder Hesjedal and Robert Gesink. Mark Cavendish also fell along with Edvald Boasson Hagen. However, Bradley Wiggins and Cadel Evans were both near the front of the field and missed the crash, leaving them free to coast in without losing time.
The crash delayed the chase and the four leaders were not caught until the last couple of kilometres. Zabriskie was the last to be caught, at 1500 metres to go, before the remaining sprinters and their teams teed themselves up for the finish.
Greipel and Matt Goss were the favourites on paper, but the former was probably slightly detuned by being involved in at least two of the day’s crashes, whilst Goss seemed to fade in the last hundred metres, allowing Peter Sagan to blast clear to claim the win by a good length.
Wiggins remains second overall, behind Fabien Cancellara. The first day in the mountain now awaits!
Stage 6: Épernay - Metz 207.5 km
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale 4:37:00
2 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol Team
3 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team
4 Kenny Robert Van Hummel (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
5 Juan José Haedo (Arg) Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank
6 Greg Henderson (NZl) Lotto Belisol Team
7 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre - ISD
8 Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha Team
9 Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team
10 Brett Lancaster (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team 0:00:04
General classification after stage 6
1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan 29:22:36
2 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:07
3 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
4 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:10
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team 0:00:13
6 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:17
7 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:18
8 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:19
9 Andreas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan
10 Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:22