Cycling: Greipel maintains German hold on Tour sprints

Lotto Soudal team rider Andre Greipel of Germany reacts after winning the 5th stage of the 102nd edition of the Tour de France 2015.
Lotto Soudal team rider Andre Greipel of Germany reacts after winning the 5th stage of the 102nd edition of the Tour de France 2015. PHOTO: EPA

AMIENS, France (AFP) - On a day in which soldiers who died in World War I were honoured and remembered, Andre Greipel emphasised German sprint domination at the Tour de France on Wednesday.

In fact, with Tony Martin keeping hold of the race leader's yellow jersey and Greipel in charge of the green points jersey, not to mention Germans winning three of the five stages so far, France's eastern neighbour is in charge of the 2015 Grand Boucle.

Greipel, 32, overhauled Mark Cavendish and Alexander Kristoff while holding off the fast finishing Peter Sagan to win the 189.5km fifth stage from Arras to Amiens.

The Lotto-Soudal rider picked the right wheel and darted out from behind Cavendish, who finished third, to power to the line, just reaching it before the Sagan express scorched past in second.

Having also won Sunday's second stage, Greipel proved he is so far the fastest man in the peloton, just as compatriot Marcel Kittel had done the previous two years, winning four stages in each.

"The second win was a really nice one and to have the green jersey for another day, it's quite a nice job for us," said Greipel, who ruled out a sustained green jersey challenge.

"We (Lotto) are focused on stage wins as I said already before the Tour. I have a really good team to support me for the sprints and we are quite happy already that we could win two, and let's say I enjoy every day in green."

Last year Germans won four of the first six stages before finishing with seven out of 21 in total, and this was their second in a row following Martin's on Tuesday.

But while there was joy for Greipel, it was another tough day at the Tour with several crashes as New Zealand's Jack Bauer and French sprinter Nacer Bouhanni both left the race, taking the number of abandonments to nine following the seven riders who crashed out on Monday.

Behind Martin, 2013 champion Chris Froome remained second overall at 12sec with Tejay Van Garderen third at 25sec. Reigning champion Vincenzo Nibali is still just over a minute and half behind Froome with Nairo Quintana even further back at almost 2min.

But two-time former winner Alberto Contador is eighth overall at 48sec and 36sec behind Froome.

The stage was specifically designed to commemorate the war dead, particularly those from Commonwealth countries, during the centenary events organised to remember World War I.

Commemoration events began early in the morning while the peloton rode through several World War I battlegrounds, including the Somme, and past numerous war cemeteries.

A lone escapee pulled clear of the peloton early on and built up a lead of more than three minutes but Frenchman Pierre-Luc Perichon was reeled in soon after the stage's intermediate sprint, less than halfway into the day's racing.

The sprint was eagerly contested as the race for the green jersey was the main prize to fight for other than the stage victory on a flat stage.

Greipel beat John Degenkolb and Cavendish to extend his lead before also landing the 50 points on offer to the stage winner.

An acceleration initially by Martin's Etixx-Quick Step and then Froome's Sky caused a split in the peloton on a long straight with crosswinds and the second group quickly lost a minute before fading away and never regaining contact.

The lead group contained around 60-70 riders out of the 190 still in the race but a crash on a slippery stretch of road 25km from the finish reduced the lead group even further.

However, none of the jersey wearers nor the overall favourites were caught out and the finish proved relatively calm.