Tour de France

Lotto brass orders Greipel to sprint after crashing

Double stage winner finishes second in Metz after nearly dropping out of the finale with shoulder pain

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METZ (VN) — It didn’t seem as though double stage winner André Greipel would get a shot at Friday’s sprint finish into Metz.

He had already crashed twice during the 207.5km stage, once on a shoulder that required surgery a couple of years back, and was looking somewhat the worse for wear as the bunch roared toward the finish.

Indeed, French TV quoted team director Herman Frison as saying the big German — who already had two consecutive sprint victories to his credit in this Tour — wouldn’t bang bars with the other fast men in the conclusion to stage 6.

“He has pain in his shoulder,” said Frison. “And he won’t take part in the sprint today.”

Well, it just goes to show — don’t believe everything you see on TV.

Lotto management was indeed concerned about Greipel’s shoulder, but not so much that they didn’t want the hat trick. So they ordered him to sprint, shoulder be damned.

“Two crashes he was involved with,” said team manager Marc Sergeant. “The first, he fell on his shoulder. A couple years ago he had surgery there. We were worried he’d damaged it… He actually said to us, ‘I do not stay,’ and we said to him, ‘You must sprint today.'”

And thus, in the finale, Greipel’s Lotto-Belisol squad cranked up its train and slung their man straight toward the line. It was a valiant effort, but doomed to failure — Liquigas-Cannondale’s Peter Sagan latched on to Greipel’s wheel and then shot around him for the victory.

What may have sounded like bad news to Greipel wound up being very good news indeed for Sagan, who collected his third stage win of the 2012 Tour.

“Yesterday I was a little unlucky, today I was lucky,” said Sagan, who missed out on the stage-5 sprint after getting caught up in a crash around 3km from the line.

“Everything went well. I decided to take Greipel’s wheel because I knew that if I did that no one would be able to pass me.”