REIMS, France — Sprint specialist Andre Greipel won a drizzly sixth stage of the Tour de France on Thursday, as crashes again thinned the pack of support riders for rivals hoping to strip Vincenzo Nibali of the yellow jersey.
The German champion collected his sixth career Tour stage victory in Champagne country and the celebrated capital of many French kings by outpacing Norway’s Alexander Kristoff in second and France’s Samuel Dumoulin in third.
At the end of the 120-mile ride from Arras to Reims, Greipel burst out of the pack with less than 300 meters left, and clenched his fists, shouting, at the finish. His job was made a bit easier because Marcel Kittel, a fellow German who has won three stages and dominated the sprint finishes, got a flat tire right before the end.
“I had really good punch today, I am really happy,” said Greipel, the Lotto Belisol rider who turns 32 next Wednesday. “Of course I’m not looking at Kittel. I don’t need to hide. I am still one of the fastest in the bunch.
“There was a lot of pressure on us, on my shoulders,” for a win, he added. “It’s a big relief for us.”
The top of the standings didn’t change, as most of the contenders for victory in the three-week race trailed close behind the muscular Greipel. He was not a challenger for the overall title; like many sprinters, he does not fare well on the climbs that are crucial to winning in Paris. He’s 37 1/2 minutes behind Nibali.
Overall, Nibali has a two-second lead over teammate Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark. Peter Sagan of Slovakia was third, 44 seconds back. Two-time Tour champion Alberto Contador, a day after losing about 2 1/2 minutes to Nibali, was dealt another setback: His Saxo-Tinkoff teammate Jesus Hernandez dropped out after a crash.