Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) sprinted to victory in the green jersey on stage five of the Tour de France, to claim his second stage win of this year’s race.
The German put down some phenomenal power on the final straight to outsprint Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep), who finished second and third respectively, in Amiens.
The Gorilla’s victory means he has extended his lead in the points classification, too, on a day which saw the GC men all finish safely together despite bad weather conditions and high winds.
Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) and Pierre-Luc Perichon (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) formed the day’s break, but in bad weather conditions their time up the road did not last long.
In driving rain, and with crosswinds aplenty, Etixx-QuickStep and BMC Racing rode hard on the front of the bunch to split things up on several occasions.
Further back, Cofidis’ French sprinter Nacer Bouhanni was involved in a crash, with the incident – his third in the last ten days – proving to be the final straw, his injuries seeing him leave the race in an ambulance.
Bouhanni’s crash saw Edet called back from the break, while off the back both Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) had to chase back on after punctures.
An early test of the sprinters’ legs arrived with 100km to go – Greipel proving to be by far the strongest at the intermediate sprint, to beat John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin), Cavendish and Sagan – a sign of what was to follow.
On the wide-open roads, regularly punctuated by World War One memorials, the winds continued to play a big part in the stage.
The pace caused a split to form with Pierre Rolland (Europcar) among those in the large group to lose contact at the back.
A huge crash in the peloton on a slick stretch of new tarmac caused even more splits, with Thibaut Pinot’s miserable few days continuing as he was among those to hit the deck.
Every rider involved got back up and chased back on – aided by the peloton knocking back the pace to deal with some street furniture on the wet roads.
BMC Racing set the pace as they rode into a driving headwind inside the final ten kilometres, while the likes of Etixx-QuickStep began to line out in sprint train formation.
Sky, Tinkoff-Saxo and Movistar all came forward as their GC men sought the safety of the final three kilometres on what was proving to be a very slow run-in because of the headwinds.
Two successive roundabouts changed the composition of the front of the group, but the riders all remained safely together as MTN-Qhubeka, Astana and Etixx-QuickStep put dugs in at the front.
Race leader Tony Martin fired up the latter’s sprint train to hit the front but Giant-Alpecin took charge and Cavendish found himself boxed in after the final turn.
The Manxman had to open his sprint up alone through the middle, as Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) led it out, but Greipel once again proved simply too strong – holding off a late lunge from Sagan to take victory.
Tour de France 2015: stage five – result
1) Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Soudal – 4.39.00hrs
2) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Tinkoff-Saxo – ST
3) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Etixx-QuickStep
4) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha
5) Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) – MTN-Qhubeka
6) John Degenkolb (GER) – Giant-Alpecin
7) Arnaud Demare (FRA) – FDJ
8) Bryan Coquard (FRA) – Europcar
9) Davide Cimolai (ITA) – Lampre-Merida
10) Greg van Avermaet (BEL) – BMC Racing
1) Tony Martin (GER) – Etixx-QuickStep – 17.19.26hrs
2) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +12”
3) Tejay van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing +25”
4) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Tinkoff-Saxo +33”
5) Tony Gallopin (FRA) – Lotto-Soudal +38”
6) Greg van Avermaet (BEL) – BMC Racing +40”
7) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Etixx-QuickStep +46”
8) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo +48”
9) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky +1.15
10) Zdenek Stybar (CZE) – Etixx-QuickStep +1.16