André Greipel of Lotto-Soudal has taken his second stage win of this year's Tour de France, outsprinting Tinkoff-Saxo's Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish of Etixx Quick-Step to win Stage 5 in Amiens.
The latter's team mate, Tony Martin, retains the race lead and was involved in the leadout for Cavendish in the closing kilometres of a tough 189.5km stage from Arras that concluded with a sprint into a headwind.
After negotiating a right-hand bend shortly after the flamme rouge to signify the start of the final kilometre, Cavendish seemed to lose Mark Renshaw's wheel as rivals jostled for position, and had to go it alone from the middle of the pack.
Greipel however came through on the left to clinch the stage win, with Sagan also lunging for the line to beat the Manxman, who had needed to chase back earlier on due to a puncture, into second place.
In rainy and windy conditions, today’s stage was punctuated throughout by crashes, one early on ending the race of Nacer Bouhanni, the Cofidis sprinter taken to hospital for checks on his ribs, elbow, and wrist, according to his team.
Points classification leader and today’s stage winner André Greipel of Lotto-Belisol
It was an interesting sprint because none of the top sprinters had any of their lead-out men to lead the sprint for them in the final 300 metres. You had to improvise a little bit.
I looked for an opening and saw there was one on the left. I was a bit far off at the 300 metres but I was lucky to still have the strength to pull it off. It was interesting.
I can be satisfied by the team effort today. Tony Gallopin is in great form and did a great job of taking me back to the front. And I know I can always count on Marcel Seeberg. Before thinking of a third win I want to enjoy the second. To win two stages and keep the green jersey I can only be happy with this stage.
Runner-up Peter Sagan of Tinkoff-Saxo, leader of the best young rider classification
It was good. I was too far back in the last 200 metres, like in 10th position. In these conditions, I'm happy to finish second. And it was good to because we managed to take Alberto [Contador] unhurt to the finish line in spite of the rain, the wind and the crashes. That's the most important thing.
Mark Cavendish of Etixx-Quick Step, third today
It was a bit chaotic. I went around Sagan and I kicked, and I saw Demare kick, and on his right Kristoff. So if I pass I could drag strip Kristoff into the finish. Greipel and Sagan just came around past me at the end.
I didn't feel great in the sprint, but no one felt great after a stage like today. I was going okay, but they just were going faster. Nothing went wrong. We were a man short in the end as Matteo [Trentin] was not 100 per cent after his crash today.
But really I was just beaten by two very strong guys. One of them already won a stage, this is his second, and he's in the green jersey. So congratulations to Greipel as he deserves this victory.
My team-mates’ efforts today in setting me up for the sprint, and protecting Tony in yellow, absolutely complemented each other. I have to give them a lot of credit for how well they were going. We stayed in front the whole day and both objectives required that.
There are still a few more opportunities. My confidence is good. I think everyone still has high morale after Tony's win yesterday, and I think for sure we'll keep going to try to get more wins at this Tour.
Race leader Tony Martin of Etixx-Quick Step
I tried to do my job for Cav in the finale. I wanted to lead him until the last kilometre and a half, and stay safe for yellow. I don't know what happened with the sprint after that. I did my job for Cav as well as I could and didn't take any risks.
I think the team did well today going into the sprint. We avoided crashes and were always in good position. The race was super stressful. A lot of nervousness, crashing, and fighting for position.
I couldn't really enjoy the day as I didn't have time to think about being in yellow. In the end of this kind of stage we were lucky to stay upright. It wasn't really a day for celebration.
We will see about the next days. We have some very good riders that can be active in different kinds of stages. With our team you never know what we can do in the next days and weeks.
I just want to keep yellow as long as possible, but I am also realistic that when the big mountains come I probably cannot stay with the best riders. Especially since I didn't train for those kinds of stages. My goal is to stay in yellow until the TTT, not the big mountains.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.