Crash sets Cavendish back in green jersey chase as Impey scripts history for South Africa.
Tour de France: Perfect 'textbook' ending for Germany's Greipel
MONTPELLIER, France // German rider Andre Greipel won yesterday's sixth stage of the Tour de France in a sprint finish and Daryl Impey became the first South African to wear the race leader's yellow jersey.
In baking-hot temperatures, Greipel surged ahead some 500 meters from the line and held off a strong challenge from Peter Sagan and Marcel Kittel.
"It was a very nervous stage today," Greipel said. "We knew we could take it in the sprint and we were ready for that."
Praising his team's efforts, Greipel said: "Today they made it like textbook and we are really happy."
Mark Cavendish was caught in a crash close to the end of the stage and wasted a lot of energy pedalling hard to rejoin the main pack.
He finished fourth, the day after winning his 24th career Tour stage to close the gap on archrival Sagan in the contest for the sprinter's green jersey.
Another win for Cavendish would have tied him with Andre Leducq for third on the all-time list of stage winners at the 110-year-old race.
Perhaps feeling the effects of his spill, Cavendish lacked his usual powers of acceleration and could not generate enough speed when he pulled out to the left and tried unsuccessfully to get around the three in front.
Impey took over the leader's jersey from his Orica Greenedge teammate Simon Gerrans.
"It's a historic day for South Africa, the first to wear a yellow jersey," Impey said. "I'm really proud."
The pack stayed together until the end of the route from Aix-en-Provence to Montpellier that was totally flat, except for one small category 4 climb.
But that did not prevent more crashes on this year's race. With about 20 miles left, Cavendish was caught in a tangle at the back of the peloton involving members of the Belkin team. His white Omega Pharma-QuickStep jersey was torn and marked by the fall.
Cavendish, who won in Montpellier two years ago, had won his 24th career win on Wednesday.
He won the green jersey in 2011 but Sagan succeeded him last year, largely because Cavendish was working more to help Sky teammate Sir Bradley Wiggins become the first British rider to win the Tour, rather than defending his own jersey.
Although the Tour route so far has not been particularly tough, there have been several crashes. There was a big pile up on Saturday's hectic first stage and several riders were hurt in two separate spills on Wednesday.
Impey now faces a tougher challenge on today's stage from Montpellier to Albi, which features a four-mile climb.
The really hard climbs start as the route heads into the high mountains tomorrow from Castres to Ax 3 Domaines in the Pyrenees - featuring a huge ascent up the notoriously difficult Col de Pailheres.
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE