Greipel sprints to victory
ROUEN, France — Britain’s Mark Cavendish felt painful scrapes from the hard Tour de France asphalt in Wednesday’s fourth stage. He bared no hard feelings toward rival Andre Greipel, who won it.
The German speedster, leading a thinned-out group of sprinters at the finish, got his 14th victory in all competitions this year while Cavendish nursed wounds from a late crash as the race entered Normandy.
Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara got briefly held up by the trouble but didn’t go down, and retained the overall lead for a fifth day after the 133-mile trek alongside the English Channel from Abbeville to Rouen.
The top standings didn’t change: Bradley Wiggins, the leader of Cavendish’s Team Sky hoping to be Britain’s first Tour winner, is second, 7 seconds behind the Swiss leader. Defending champion Cadel Evans of Australia is 17 seconds off the pace in seventh.
With less than 2 miles left, a group spill brought down Cavendish, scraping up his rainbow-colored jersey of world champion. He looked a bit dazed as Sky staff checked him out and helped him get on a bike. He rode gingerly to finish the stage. The squad said he was banged up, but appeared to have no serious injuries and was likely to start Thursday.
With Cavendish out of the picture, Greipel burst out of the depleted group of sprinters, and sped to the straightaway finish, a split-second ahead of Italy’s Alessandro Petacchi and Dutch rider Tom Veelers.
The German said he didn’t pay much attention to the late crash.
‘‘I heard something behind me but at 60 kilometers per hour, you don’t worry about what happened behind,’’ the Lotto-Belisol rider told France-2 TV.
While pro cyclists all run the risk of crashing, Cavendish’s spill amounted to a scare — if faint — to his high hopes of winning gold for Britain in the Olympic road race next month.
Cavendish, seen by many as the world’s best sprinter and the winner of 21 Tour stages, including Stage 2 Monday, conveyed no hard feelings over his mishap.
‘‘Ouch . . . ,’’ Cavendish wrote on Twitter. ‘‘Crash at 2.5km to finish today. Taken some scuffs to my left side, but I've bounced pretty well again. Congrats to (at) AndreGreipel.’’
Despite the crash, Greipel said his victory was well-deserved.
‘‘There were still really fast guys there for the sprint and I think we just deserve this victory,’’ he said. “I think it’s no question about that, I won a stage in the Tour de France!’’
At a still-young 27 years old, Cavendish, who was voted the BBC’s sports personality of the year in Britain last year, is one short of the number of Tour stage wins that seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong had in his career.
An official race medical report said Cavendish sustained several scratches and a cut on a finger, Bernard Eisel sustained a gash that required stitches on his forehead, and Garmin’s Robbie Hunter of South Africa scraped up his left side. Daniel Oss of Liquigas had a hip injury.
According to the Tour rulebook, riders who get delayed by a crash in the last 3 kilometers of the stage are awarded the same time as the stage winner.
The pack clocked the same time as Greipel — 5 hours, 18 minutes, 32 seconds — though some stragglers nursing wounds from crashes earlier this week, like world time-trial champion Tony Martin of Germany, and Tom Danielson of the United States, straggled in 2:21 behind.