Tour de France stage 5: Andre Greipel storms to victory

It was eerily apt that the Tour de France resembled a funeral cortège on the day it weaved its way through the battlefields of the two World Wars en route to stage five’s finish in Amiens. Battered by rain and wind, only Andre Greipel and his Lotto-Soudal teammates will look back upon this as a day to remember, as he surged to win a late bunch sprint under the sombre skies of northern France.

St 5 profile

Rider of the day

On a stage in which barely anyone looked interested in seizing the initiative until the final few kilometres – the day’s two-man breakaway was over before the riders even reached the feedzone – this prize could only go to winner Andre Greipel. Not only did he win the sprint, but he did so in a brutally impressive fashion. He lacked a train as organised as Etixx-Quick Step and Giant-Alpecin’s, and so took things into his own hands as he stormed from a long way back to take victory.

On current form, the Gorilla looks comfortably the strongest sprinter in the race, and it seems increasingly unlikely that anyone will be able to prise the green jersey from his shoulders.

Four things we noticed

1. Even this Tour’s quiet days are ear-splitting. In comparison to the other stages we’ve seen at this Tour so far, this was a pretty uneventful day. Yet it still included enough rain to warrant the armwarmers getting some out-of-season employment, enough wind to split the main field into two big groups, and a continued crackle of chutes and abandons over Radio Tour. These poor riders can’t seem to do anything to catch a break.

With the scorching heat of Utrecht having been replaced with northern France’s chilly drizzle, this Tour de France looks a far cry from the vibrant Alpine paradise portrayed in the sponsors’ posters that litter the pages of L’Equipe each July. For the sofa spectator, it’s fantastic; for the riders, the comforting predictability of warmer climes will make even this race’s toughest stages look unusually appealing.

2. It was another bad day to be French. Unfortunately for Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr), the last couple of days have been less ‘drizzle’ and more ‘raging torrent’. The French climber followed up yesterday’s cobbled nightmare with another tough day, having been caught up in a crash in the first of the two big groups with just over 20km remaining. Fortunately he didn’t lose more time, but he’ll be wondering how to get back in the cycling gods’ good books before the real climbing begins.

Unfortunately his compatriot Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) won’t have the chance to redeem himself: the sprinter was caught up in a crash in the opening few kilometres of today’s stage, and his injuries were severe enough that he had to abandon. Remember, he was already riding with rib cartilage damage. Ouch.

3. The Etixx-Quick Step train faltered again. Any thought that Tony Martin‘s yellow jersey would shift Etixx-Quick Step’s focus away from Mark Cavendish went out of the window when the race leader himself towed Cav and his lead-out man Mark Renshaw into the final few kilometres of today’s stage. All seemed to be going swimmingly until the duo became uncoupled, with Cavendish left isolated at the crucial moment. It’s doubtful that he would’ve matched Greipel’s raw power in a straight sprint regardless, but results like this won’t ease the tension that seems to be mounting between the team management and their star sprinter, who hasn’t won a stage of the Tour in 726 days. Things could be a little tetchy at the team hotel tonight.

4. Peter Sagan is getting closer. Suffice to say, Peter Sagan‘s debut season at Tinkoff-Saxo hasn’t gone quite as well as anyone involved would’ve anticipated. But despite him having failed to win a stage so far, the Tour de France has offered hope that Sagan is now moving in the right direction. He’s been a valuable domestique for his team leader Alberto Contador, and has looked lively in chasing intermediate sprints where possible. Most impressive was his late charge at today’s finish: as he crossed the line in second place he was undoubtedly going much faster than Greipel, and he would probably have won if his positioning heading into the finale had been better.

Stage 5 result

1. Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) 4:39:00

2. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) same time

3. Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick Step) s/t

4. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) s/t

5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) s/t

General classification

1. Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) 17:19:26

2. Chris Froome (Sky) +0:12

3. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) +0:25

4. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) +0:33

5. Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) +0:38

6. Greg van Avermaet (BMC) +0:40

7. Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick Step) +0:46

8. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) +0:48

9. Geraint Thomas (Sky) +1:15

10. Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quick Step) +1:16

Points leader: Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal).

King of the Mountains leader: Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).

Best young rider: Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo).

Team classification: BMC.

Link: Official race website

Header image: The riders pass the Nécropole nationale de Notre-Dame-de-Lorette B (Baden/ASO)

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