Tour de France Blog: Stage Four – Stage Six
One could be forgiven for expecting any blog relating to three consecutive sprint stages of the Tour de France for focusing predominantly on Mark Cavendish; his dramatic victory in Stage Two indicated that, despite murmurings about a drop in top-end speed, and a Sky team focused almost exclusively upon the interests of Bradley Wiggins, the Manx Missile remained The Fastest Man on Two Wheels. However, despite showing well in these Stages’ intermediate sprints, Cavendish’s luck in the finale deserted him. A heavy crash in the dying kilometres of Stage Four destroyed any chance of victory, and the knocks sustained that day possibly hindered his attempts the next day. Being caught behind the spectacular crash in Stage Six completed a frustrating few days for World Champion.
The chief beneficiary of Cavendish’s misfortune was his ex-teammate Andre Greipel. After being pipped on Stage Two, the huge German took Stages Four and Five in dominant fashion, profiting from the textbook efforts of his well-drilled Lotto-Belisol lead out train. Despite not contesting the intermediate sprints, Greipel’s authoritative finishes looked to have afforded him an outside shot at the Green Jersey; however, after dislocating his shoulder in Stage Six, in which he amazingly still secured second place, the ex-HTC man’s chances in the few remaining sprint stages may be hindered.
The winner of Stage Six, almost inevitably, was Peter Sagan, taking the astonishing 22 year old’s win tally to three by the end of the first week of his debut Tour. The Slovakian powered emphatically away from Greipel and the persistent Matt Goss in the home straight, further extending his lead over Goss in the Green Jersey competition. Sagan’s versatility, power, and climbing prowess make it increasingly likely that, barring crashes, the Liquigas-Cannondale prodigy will keep his lead all the way to Paris.
There are always crashes in the first week of the Tour. The high speed mass pile up that occurred 25km from the end of Stage Six, however, was horrific enough for David Millar to describe it as the worst he had ever been involved in. The crash effectively ended the GC ambitions of Frank Schleck, Michele Scarponi, and Robert Gesink, as well as causing an astonishing seventeen withdrawals from the race. Worst affected, however, were Garmin, who after enjoying a fantastic 2011 tour have suffered a torrid start to this year’s edition; the American outfit lost not only lead out man Robbie Hunter, but also GC hopes Tom Danielson and Ryder Hesjedal, winner of this year’s Giro D’Italia. As the race moves into the mountains the team’s hopes will now rest upon Daniel Martin, the exciting Birmingham-born Irish climber, making his Tour debut.