Tour de France 2015: Greipel wins stage five; Cavendish third
German Andre Greipel won stage five of the Tour de France with Briton Mark Cavendish third in a sprint finish.
Lotto-Soudal rider Greipel overhauled Cavendish and Norwegian Alexander Kristoff and held off fast-finishing Slovak Peter Sagan, who came second.
"He was faster," said Cavendish of Greipel. "Today I was just beaten."
It was Greipel's second stage victory this year, while Tony Martin remains overall leader from Britain's 2013 champion Chris Froome.
Team Sky's Froome finished safely in the peloton at the end of the stage from Arras to Amiens to remain second in the general classification, 12 seconds behind Martin.
The distance between Froome and his main GC rivals - Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana - remained unchanged.
Greipel's victory continued a successful few days for German riders after Etixx - Quick-Step's Martin claimed yellow on Tuesday when he made a late surge to win stage four in Cambrai.
"Three stages and the yellow jersey for Germany, it's unbelievable," said Martin. "I would wish Cav could beat Andre today, but if Cav can't win, I'm so happy that a German rider's in front."
|Cavendish's wait continues|
|Cavendish has 25 stage wins, joint third with Andre Leducq. Bernard Hinault has 28 and Eddy Merckx 34|
|His last win was on stage 13 in 2013 when he out-sprinted Peter Sagan in Saint-Amand-Montrond|
|The 30-year-old crashed out during the sprint finish of stage one in 2014|
|Cavendish has now lost twice at the 2015 Tour to Andre Greipel in sprint finishes|
Cavendish was unhappy with the lead-out provided by his team on stage two, when he felt that he was exposed at the front too early and was eventually overtaken by Greipel, but he had no complaints on Wednesday.
"It was a bit chaotic," added Cavendish, who was seeking his 26th stage victory in the race. "Greipel and Sagan just came past me in the end.
"I actually did a good sprint, but I was just beaten by two other guys. They just went faster."
Much of Wednesday's stage took place in wet and gusty conditions, with numerous crashes throughout the day. The first of these came shortly after the start and involved four Cofidis riders, including team leader Nacer Bouhanni, who was forced to abandon with a wrist injury.
New Zealander Jack Bauer was involved in two crashes and failed to make it to Amiens, while another sizeable crash with 30kms to go involved Frenchman Thibaut Pinot, who finished third last year and had to be towed back to the main bunch by team-mates.
The stage took the peloton past numerous World War One battlefields and memorials, and Team Sky duo Froome and Peter Kennaugh laid a wreath at the Arras Memorial before the start while Orica-GreenEdge wore a special jersey honouring the Australians who fought.
Pierre-Luc Perichon launched an early break but he was reeled in shortly after the intermediate sprint and after a bruising few days at the start of the race, the pace at the front of the peloton slowed and a bunch sprint became increasingly inevitable.
By that point the field had split in two, with a trailing group that included the likes of Peter Kennaugh and French veteran Thomas Voeckler seemingly content to roll in more than seven minutes behind those in front of them.
|BBC Sport's Matt Slater at the Tour de France|
|"There was a hint of gallows humour around the Etixx - Quick-Step bus in Amiens as we waited for Mark Cavendish to shower, breathe deeply and put on his poker face. Some journalists wondered if we should congratulate him on his 'podium finish' or tell him he is 'getting closer' with a third to follow a fourth. We didn't, though. Nobody dared.|
|"But it was a calm Cavendish who emerged. No excuses from him and he suggested the story should not be him losing but Andre Greipel's great win. He is right, up to a point. The fact is he used to beat Greipel, and almost everybody else, nearly all the time. If he doesn't win in the next two days, him losing it will be the story no matter how well his rivals ride."|
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At the front, it looked as though Cavendish was enjoying a superb lead-out but that changed when the riders turned a sharp bend close to the finish and it became every man for himself.
Greipel timed his sprint superbly into a very strong headwind and just had enough to hold off an incredible late surge from Sagan.
"The whole team worked well for this sprint," said the victorious Greipel. "It was the first bunch sprint, it's interesting - with 300m to go I thought I was boxed in but I saw an opening and went for it."
Greipel, known as the Gorilla, retained the sprinter's green jersey, while Sagan will continue to wear white as the Tour's best young rider when the race travels 191.5km from Abbeville to Le Havre on Thursday.
Stage 5 result
1. Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto 4hrs 39mins
2. Peter Sagan (Slo) Tinkoff - Saxo same time
3. Mark Cavendish (GB) Etixx - Quick-Step
4. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team MTN
6. John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant
7. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ
8. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Europcar
9. Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre
10. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing
1. Tony Martin (Ger) / Etixx - Quick-Step 17hrs 19mins 26secs
2. Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky +12secs
3. Tejay van Garderen (US) BMC Racing +25secs
4. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto +38secs
5. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff - Saxo +39secs
6. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing +40secs
7. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx - Quick-Step +46secs
8. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff - Saxo +48secs
9. Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky +1min 15secs
10. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step +1min 16secs
13. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana +1min 50secs
16. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar +2mins 03secs
17. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar + 2mins 08secs