Greipel wins sixth stage of Tour as Cavendish has to wait for the magic 25
Published 04/07/2013 | 17:19
There was the rare sight of the Manxman losing a contested sprint finish as he appeared to pull up short of the line, perhaps feeling the effects of a crash 34km from the finish.
Instead, Andre Greipel came home first ahead of Peter Sagan and Marcel Kittel, just ahead of Cavendish.
Cavendish was caught in a crash with some Belkin riders late in the stage, and needed seven tough kilometres to get back to the peloton.
He looked to be well positioned but did not have the legs to beat his rivals and sat up in a British national champion's jersey torn down the back after his tumble.
He had fought hard to get back on and, perhaps showing his anger, looked feisty as he took a big risk by jumping on to the island of a roundabout to cut a corner.
It was a frustrating end to a day which began with a 6.30am wake-up call from the anti-doping unit, just hours after he got his first stage win of this Tour on the seafront in Marseille yesterday evening.
Sagan had also had late trouble before his second place, changing both wheels on his bike with 48km left and then receiving further mechanical attention before joining back up with the peloton.
Greipel had also won the intermediate sprint earlier in the stage ahead of Cavendish, with Sagan back in fourth that time.
While the roads between Aix-en-Provence and Montpellier were straightforward in themselves, the often fierce Mistral added an 'x' factor and the riders dealt with some strong crosswinds in the first half of the stage.
But after a short-lived solo attack from Cofidis' Luis Mate, the peloton stuck together throughout - bar those whose Tour came to end today.
Two riders did not make the start after crashes late in yesterday's stage.
Lotto-Belisol's Jurgen van den Brock became the highest-profile withdrawal from the Tour so far, with the man who finished fourth overall in both 2010 and 2012 suffering from a knee injury.
AG2R La-Mondiale's Maxime Bouet did not start either due to a fractured wrist. FDJ's French sprinter Nacer Bouhanni was dealing with a gastric problem and he was dropped by the peloton early on, keeping up a solo battle some four minutes off the pace before dejectedly climbing off his bike and into the team car 90km from the finish.
Fredrik Kessiakoff then joined the list of withdrawals, leaving Astana down to seven riders.
His team-mate Janez Brajkovic was caught in a crash about 11km from the finish, but eventually got going again after medical treatment.