Lotto-Soudal's German sprinter Andre Greipel won his third stage in this year's Tour de France after beating John Degenkolb, Alexander Kristoff and Peter Sagan in the last sprinters' stage before the finale in Paris next Sunday.
Greipel showed once again that he's the strongest sprinter on this year's race as he held off Degenkolb, Kristoff and Sagan in a 70kph climax to claim his third stage win as Manxman Mark Cavandish was nowhere to be seen, 15'45" behind; just five minutes off elimination.
Greipel explained how it wasn't an easy stage, telling reporters: "It was really hard and I was suffering from kilometre zero. The team supported me as best they could sheltering me from the wind and in the last 100 metres I still had power to get to the line.
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He added: "We [Lotto-Soudal] came here to win stages and now we have three so we're very happy, we have a very strong team."
The 183km route from Mende to Valence saw a few breakaways including the likes of World Champion, Etixx - Quick-Step's Michal Kwiatkowski, and Tinkoff-Saxo's Green Jersey holder Sagan but the peloton caught them inside 30km from the finish and from there it was a straight battle of the sprinters.
At 6km to go Etixx - Quick-Step's stage six winner, Zdenek Stybar, flew clear hoping to claim victory with a prolonged solo effort, similar to the one achieved by his team mate Tony Martin on stage four. However, the Czech man couldn't hold the 50kph pace and was caught with 2km left.
From there it was all about the lead-out trains as each team vied for the best position for their own sprinter.
Greipel and Degenkolb went for the line first with 800 metres to go and were joined soon after by Kristoff and Sagan however they couldn't get ahead of the man dubbed 'The Gorilla' in a very fast finish.
Team Sky's Chris Froome managed to retain the overall leader's Yellow Jersey and keep his 03'10" gap to second placed Nairo Quintana, as there were no attacks from any General Classification contenders.
It was the last sprinters' stage before the last stage in Paris next Sunday as the Tour heads ever closer towards the Alps tomorrow before the rest day on Tuesday.
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