Peter Sagan got on the 2012 Tour de France roll of honor for the third time here Friday, claiming the sixth stage with Fabian Cancellera holding onto the leaders' yellow jersey. Sagan, riding for the Liquigas team, was adding this 210km ride from Epernay to his wins in the first and third stages on what is the Slovakian champion's debut in the race. Sagan is placed eighth in the general classifications behind Swiss ace Cancellera, with British challenger Bradley Wiggins seven seconds behind in second.
A day ahead of the first climbing stage where the first selections in the peloton are expected to be made, some pre-race contenders were left rueing losing time after being caught in a mass pile-up. As the peloton chased a four-man breakaway a crash on a straight but tight section of road around 26 km from the finish forced several riders to hit the tarmac and grass verges and left even more delayed by the melee. A peloton of around 50 riders, which included most of the overall favorites including defending champion Cadel Evans and Wiggins but not stage contender Mark Cavendish, forged on regardless. Behind, it was chaos with dozens of riders held up and most waiting for new bikes and wheels from their support cars. Others, like American Tom Danielson and Davide Vigano of Italy, were in no rush to resume. After sitting or lying on the road in pain, they were forced to pull out due to their injuries.
Among the big losers were Luxembourg's Frank Schleck (RadioShack), Thomas Voeckler of France (Europcar), Italy's Michele Scarponi (Lampre) and Canada's Giro d'Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin). All were delayed by the crash and left with a two-minute deficit to the chasing peloton up the road ahead as they closed in on frontrunners David Zabriskie (Garmin), Davide Malacarne (Europcar), Karsten Kroon (Saxo Bank) and Romain Zingle (Cofidis), with Sagan emerging to prevail in the sprint for the line in Metz.
1. Peter Sagan (SVK/LIQ) 4h37min 00sec
2. André Greipel (GER/LTB) at 0:00s
3. Matthew Goss (AUS/GEC) 0:00.
4. Kenny van Hummel (NED/VAC) 0:00.
5. Juan José Haedo (ARG/SAX) 0:00.
6. Greg Henderson (NZL/LTB) 0:00.
7. Alessandro Petacchi (ITA/LAM) 0:00.
8. Luca Paolini (ITA/KAT) 0:00.
9. Daryl Impey (RSA/GEC) 0:00.
10. Brett Lancaster (AUS/GEC) 0:04.
11. Sébastien Hinault (FRA/ALM) 0:04.
12. Roy Curvers (NED/ARG) 0:04.
13. Julien Simon (FRA/SAU) 0:04.
14. Cadel Evans (AUS/BMC) 0:04.
15. Bernhard Eisel (AUT/SKY) 0:04.
16. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/LIQ) 0:04.
17. Marco Marcato (ITA/VAC) 0:04.
18. Andreas Kloden (GER/RSH) 0:04.
19. Samuel Sanchez (ESP/EUS) 0:04.
20. Nicolas Roche (IRL/ALM) 0:04.
1. Fabian Cancellara (SUI/RSH) 29h22min 36sec
2. Bradley Wiggins (GBR/SKY) at 0:07.
3. Sylvain Chavanel (FRA/OPQ) 0:07.
4. Tejay Van Garderen (USA/BMC) 0:10.
5. Denis Menchov (RUS/KAT) 0:13.
6. Cadel Evans (AUS/BMC) 0:17.
7. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/LIQ) 0:18.
8. Peter Sagan (SVK/LIQ) 0:19.
9. Andreas Kloden (GER/RSH) 0:19.
10. Maxime Monfort (BEL/RSH) 0:22.
11. Rein Taaramae (EST/COF) 0:22.
12. Marco Marcato (ITA/VAC) 0:23.
13. Vladimir Gusev (RUS/KAT) 0:24.
14. Haimar Zubeldia (ESP/RSH) 0:24.
15. Nicolas Roche (IRL/ALM) 0:25.
16. Michael Rogers (AUS/SKY) 0:25.
17. Jurgen Van den Broeck (BEL/LTB) 0:28.
18. Ivan Basso (ITA/LIQ) 0:29.
19. Eduard Vorganov (RUS/KAT) 0:35.
20. Samuel Sanchez (ESP/EUS) 0:40.