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Greipel makes it three at Tour de France
Jul 15th, 12. It was not a traditional transition stage and certainly not a traditional sprint finish - but for the third time this Tour de France it was Andre Greipel who was victorious.
In the last 900m of Stage 13's 217km stage from St-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Le Cap d'Agde it was the leader of the Tour at the front of the bike race.
After strong crosswinds on the coast and a short but steep climb with 23km to go had reduced the front of the race to just 50 riders, Bradley Wiggins changed roles - the yellow jersey leader became the leadout rider for Team Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagan.
Unfortunately for Boasson Hagan - the Norwegian national champion - on his wheel were two strong sprinters who had managed to make it over the day's obstacles - and they were both stage winners this Tour.
From behind Boasson Hagen's wheel Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) launched himself to the front. Green jersey leader and triple stage winner Peter Sagan (Liquigas) was on his wheel, but was unable to come around the German and had to settle for 2nd today.
Greipel won by half a wheel.
Thanks to today's points, Greipel is now 2nd in the Points Classification behind Sagan. Matthew Goss' Orica GreenEdge team did a lot of work earlier in the stage to ensure the inevitable break was reeled in, but the Australian sprinter was unable to gain back any of the points he was docked yesterday as he was not in the front bunch today.
How the day panned out
The day's break was determined by the first 1.5km with five riders out front and a couple of chasers. They worked themselves up to a maximum time gap of 9m20s, as Orica GreenEdge controlled the front of the peloton.
Tony Gallopin (RadioShack Nissan Trek) quit the race early in the stage citing an illness that he has had for a couple of days.
At the interim sprint after 128km the break's gap was down to 3m40s. Behind them was the familiar fight for the rest of the sprint points on offer and today it was Sagan who disrupted Orica GreenEdge's train to ensure he took the points ahead of Greipel then Goss.
On the five year anniversary of his father's death, Michael Morkov (SaxoBank Tinkoff Bank) was insistent on trying to win the stage. He attacked his break group with 64km to go and within 2km he had a lead of 20sec on the now seven other escapees.
With 55km to go, he was 30sec ahead (while the peloton was at 2m40s). There was a tailwind at the time of his attack but it would turn to crosswinds inside the final 40km.
Lotto Belisol's Jurgen Van den Broeck crested the Mont Saint-Clair hill 1st, with Cadel Evans (BMC) 2nd. There were about 25 in the lead group after the climb but most of the fast finishers who had hoped for their chance at stage glory were not.
Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) attacked the front group with 16km to go and Michael Albasini (Orica GreenEdge) chased him down. With 10km to go they had a lead of 25sec on the yellow jersey's bunch that was led by five Lotto-Belisol riders - with Sagan right on the wheel of Greipel.
With 2.5km to go, Vinokourov and Albasini were caught and this prompted an attack from Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank), but he too was caught as the bunch passed under the 1km to go banner.
With 900m to go, Wiggins was in the lead with Boasson Hagen on his wheel and the Sky team looked like it might just be able to grab its fourth stage win, but the Norwegian couldn't hold off the charge by Greipel and Sagan who drag raced each other to the line.
The German won the battle with a late lunge to the line. Boasson Hagen was 3rd and Wiggins was home safely in 12th place; he will again wear the yellow jersey in Stage 14 tomorrow.
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