Cycling: Sagan completes Tour hat-trick
(CNN) — Slovakian sensation Peter Sagan made it a hat-trick of stage wins on his debut in the Tour de France as he sprinted to victory in Metz Friday.
The 22-year-old Sagan has extended his lead in the battle for the green points jersey after denying German Andre Greipel his third straight stage win.
But the 210-km sixth stage from Eperney was marred by a mass pile-up 26km from the finish which claimed a number of contenders for overall honors.
Race leader Fabian Cancellara, favorite Bradley Wiggins and defending champion Cadel Evans avoided the crash.
Andre Greipel, second from left, of the Lotto-Belisol team charges ahead to the finish line on Thursday, July 5, 2012, to win stage 5 of the Tour de France. The 99th Tour de France, which weaves through the mountains and cobblestone roads of France and nearby countries, consists of 22 teams with nine riders each and runs through July 22.
Fans wave French flags and cheer on riders Thursday as the main group passes on the way from Rouen, where stage 5 of the race started, to Saint-Quentin.
Jonathan Cantwell of team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank lies on the ground after crashing near the finish of stage 5 Thursday.
Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Sharp sits on the ground dazed after crashing hard near the end of Thursday’s race.
Farrar bleeds from multiple wounds as he rolls through to the finish line after crashing in the final sprint Thursday.
Riders pass a field of poppies as they race through the French countryside Thursday.
Fabian Cancellara of team RadioShack-Nissan holds on to the team car as he makes an adjustment during the race Thursday.
Fans cheer and a television helicopter flies above as the riders stream by.
From left: Julien Simon of Saur-Sojasun, Pablo Urtasun Perez of Euskaltel-Euskadi and Matthieu Ladagnous of FDJ-BigMat ride in a breakaway from the main group Thursday.
Fans line the road and wait for riders to pass along the 196.5-kilometer (122-mile) stage 5 course Thursday.
Riders roll past a hot-air balloon sitting in a field along Thursday’s course.
Christian Vande Velde of Garmin-Sharp signs an autograph for a fan before the beginning of Thursday’s stage.
Jonathan Vaughters, director of team Garmin-Sharp, addresses the media before the start of stage 5 of the Tour de France on Thursday.
Andre Greipel of Germany and the Lotto-Belisol team celebrates winning stage four of the 2012 Tour de France from Abbeville to Rouen on Wednesday July 4, 2012, in Rouen, France.
The pack of riders cycles past spectators during the fourth stage.
The peloton rides during the fourth stage.
The peloton passes through wheat fields.
The pack of riders cycles in the city of Abbeville.
Liquigas-Cannondale rider Peter Sagan of Slovakia signs autographs for spectators.
The pack of cyclists during the fourth stage.
Injured Great Britain’s Mark Cavendish reacts after he crashed at the end of the 214,5 km.
Great Britain’s Mark Cavendish rides after he crashed.
The pack rides at Dieppe cliffs during the 214,5 km.
The peloton passes by windmills on Wednesday.
Leading men, France’s David Moncoutie, Japan’s Yukiya Arashiro, and France’s Anthony Delaplace ride in a breakaway.
Peter Sagan of Slovakia celebrates while crossing the finish line Tuesday taking his second stage win of the Tour on July 3.
Overall race leader Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, in yellow jersey, rides in main group during Tuesday’s 197 kilometer (122 mile) stage.
Fans wave the French flag as the peleton, led by team Radioshack, rides past.
France’s Thomas Voeckler grimaces during one of the courses many climbs on Tuesday.
The peloton, the main group of riders, descends a hill during the third stage of the Tour de France 2012.
France’s Sebastien Minard, left, and Denmark’s Michael Morkov, in the polka-dot jersey, lead a breakaway in the third stage of the 2012 Tour de France.
Bradley Wiggins, left, rides with teammates from Britain’s Sky cycling team, wearing yellow helmets for the best team standings.
Tour de France 2011 winner, Australia’s Cadel Evans, rides in the third stage of the 2012 Tour de France cycling race on Tuesday.
Sky Procycling team rider Mark Cavendish of Britain arrives for the start of the third stage of the race on Tuesday.
Fabian Cancellara of Team RadioShack-Nissan arrives for the start of the third stage of the Tour de France 2012 cycling race, 197 kilometers (122 miles) from Orchies to Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, on Tuesday.
Fans cheer on riders as they climb the Cote de la Citadelle de Namur (Climb of Namur Citadel) during the second stage of the Tour de France in Belgium on Monday, July 2.
Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland holds the yellow jersey and overall race lead going into the second stage, third day of racing, Monday.
A spectator sits along the course Monday in Belgium, where stage 2 of the race covers 129 miles from Vise to Tournai and is relatively flat.
Three riders broke away from the main group early including, from left to right: Anthony Roux of France, Michael Morkov of Denmark and Christophe Kern of France, shown Monday.
The main group of riders quickly fell several minutes behind the breakaway group as they traveled along Belgian roads Monday.
The main group of riders, referred to as the peloton, races through the countryside Monday.
Peter Sagan of Slovakia celebrates on the finish line as he wins stage one of the Tour de France, just ahead of overall race leader Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, on Sunday, July 1, in Seraing, Belgium.
Cancellara, wearing the yellow jersey, rides alongside Cadel Evans of Australia, second from left, and Frank Schleck of Luxembourg, left, on Sunday.
The large pack of riders, known as the peloton, follows the official Tour de France vehicle at the beginning of Sunday’s portion of the race.
A spectator waves the Belgian flag as fans wait for riders to pass along the stage one route on Sunday.
A group of six riders including Nicolas Edet of France, left, broke away from the main group very early in the race. The riders were able to maintain a gap of several minutes until they were eventually caught about 8 kilometers (5 miles) from the finish line on Sunday.
The peloton travels along a narrow road through the Belgian countryside on Sunday.
Fans wait on the roadside for the almost 200 riders to pass during stage one on Sunday.
Fans peer over a railing as riders crest a small hill on Sunday.
Anthony Delaplace of France leads the six riders in the breakaway group on Sunday.
The peloton begins the final climb of Sunday’s stage, called the Cote de Seraing, as riders near the finish of the 198-kilometer (123-mile) course.
Peter Sagan of Slovakia, right, sprints to victory at the finish line Sunday ahead of Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, left, and Edvald Boasson Hagen of Norway, center.
Overall race leader Fabian Cancellara embraces former Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx after Sunday’s stage.
Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland lunges out of the starting gate for the individual time trial and first test in the 2012 Tour de France in Liege, Belgium, on Saturday, June 30.
Cycling fans sit on a bronze statue in the town of Liege, Belgium, to get a glimpse of the individual time trial on Saturday.
Nicki Sorensen of Denmark eyes the finish line as he nears the completion of the 6.4 kilometer (4 miles) course on Saturday.
Sylvain Chavanel of France rounds a sharp turn on the course in Liege on Saturday.
Bradley Wiggins of Britain sprints to the finish line on Saturday.
A performer, wearing a hat decorated with toy cyclists, poses for spectators on Saturday.
Andriy Grivko of Ukraine grimaces as he nears the finish line, cheered on by fans.
Cadel Evans of Austraila, last year’s Tour winner, rounds a turn during the time trial. He finished witih the 13th best time.
Cancellara, who won the prologue with an individual time trial time of 7 minutes 13 seconds, sprints to the finish on Saturday.
Cancellara celebrates on the podium Saturday and pulls on the yellow jersey, worn by the overall race leader.
Tour de France 2012: The best photos
But Giro d’Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda) and RadioShack star Frank Schleck all but saw their hopes ended along with French favorite Thomas Voeckler and Dutchman Robert Gesink.
Britain’s Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) was also held up to leave Sagan to battle it out with a reluctant Greipel, who had gone down twice in earlier incidents to leave his confidence shaken.
Australia’s Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) finished third.
The decisive crash came as the peloton chased a four-man breakaway on a straight but tight section of road.
Several riders were injured and behind it was chaos, with many competitors held up and looking for new bikes and wheels.
Hesjedal’s teammate, David Millar of Britain, summed it up on his Twitter blog:
“Oh sweet jesus that was scary. Approx 70km/h pile up, like a tidal wave of debris smashing towards us, could do nothing but brake and pray.”
A whittled down peloton of eventually caught the frontrunners of David Zabriskie (Garmin), Davide Malacarne (Europcar), Karsten Kroon (Saxo Bank) and Romain Zingle (Cofidis), with Sagan going on to show his undoubted class at the finish.