Greipel wins 6th Tour de France stage in a sprint

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Germany’s Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France, Thursday, July 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Germany’s Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France, Thursday, July 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Germany’s Andre Greipel looks back as he celebrates crossing the finish line ahead of fourth place Australia’s Mark Renshaw, right, to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France, Thursday, July 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Germany’s Andre Greipel, center, crosses the finish line ahead of second place Norway’s Alexander Kristoff, center in red and white, third place Samuel Dumoulin of France, right, and Peter Sagan of Slovakia, second right and fifth place, to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France, Thursday, July 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Tinkoff Saxo team manager Bjarne Riis of Denmark, right, helps his rider Jesus Hernandez Blaquez of Spain after he crashed during the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France, Thursday, July 10, 2014. Blaquez is a key climbing lieutenant for leader Alberto Contador of Spain, but had to abandon the race because of his injuries. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Tinkoff Saxo team manager Bjarne Riis of Denmark and a Tour de France doctor help Jesus Hernandez Blaquez of Spain after he crashed during the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France, Thursday, July 10, 2014. Blaquez is a key climbing lieutenant for leader Alberto Contador of Spain had to abandon the race because of his injuries. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

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REIMS, France (AP) — Andre Greipel of Germany won the sixth stage of the Tour de France in a sprint as the pack entered Champagne country, and Vincenzo Nibali of Italy retained the yellow jersey on Thursday.

The German champion collected his sixth career Tour stage victory by outpacing Norway’s Alexander Kristoff in second and France’s Samuel Dumoulin in third at the end of the 194-kilometer (120-mile) ride from Arras to Reims.

The Lotto Belisol rider 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, 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 peloton faced intermittent drizzle over the mostly flat course, which was well suited for sprinters.

The top 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 nearly 35 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 on Thursday: His Saxo-Tinkoff teammate Jesus Hernandez dropped out after a crash.

Among other possible contenders, Richie Porte of Australia — who inherited the role of Team Sky leader after the withdrawal of injured defending champion Chris Froome on Wednesday — was 1 minute, 54 seconds back in eighth place. American Andrew Talansky, winner of the Criterium du Dauphine last month, was ninth 2:05 back. Spaniard Alejandro Valverde was 10th, 2:11 back, and compatriot Contador was in 18th, 2:37 behind.

The Tour has another mostly flat Stage 7, a 234.5-kilometer (146-mile) trek from Epernay to Nancy — the second longest stage — on Thursday.

Associated Press

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