German cyclist Andre Greipel won the 214.5km Tour de France forth stage on Wednesday.
German cyclist Andre Greipel won the 214.5km Tour de France forth stage on Wednesday.

German sprint ace Andre Greipel has won stage four of the Tour de France after a high-speed crash near the finish took out world champion Mark Cavendish.

Australian Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) was no match for some superb work from Andre Greipel's Lotto-Belisol team and finished fourth.

Goss's compatriot Jonathan Cantwell (Saxo Bank) also had a great day in his debut Tour, recovering from a crash with about 45km left to finish sixth.

Cavendish went down in a crash with 2.7km left and took several minutes to remount his bike and finish.

Sky team director Sean Yates said the British star and Austrian teammate Bernie Eisel, who also crashed, should be able to stay in the Tour.

"Hopefully it's nothing more than cuts and bruises for both of them," Yates said.

Greipel and Goss were in a group of about 15 riders that managed to avoid the crash and go on to contest the stage finish.

Goss only had South African teammate Daryl Impey for support and was no match for the Lotto-Belisol finish.

"I was too many positions back through the last corner and those guys did a massive, massive effort to lead out Greipel like they did," Goss said.

"We picked up some more points (for the green jersey classification) and the guys rode well - fourth place on the day."

Goss said the crash happened immediately behind him.

"There seems to be a bit of a common theme, there's a crash in the last few kilometres," he said.

"It was only one or two positions behind me and I saw guys go down.

"From then on it made it really difficult, I had to accelerate into the group a bit and the leadout from Lotto was too strong."

Greipel is well-known to Australian cycling fans as a two-time winner of the Tour Down Under.

His Lotto-Belisol team, including Australian Adam Hansen, again showed they have the best leadout train at this year's Tour.

They had also put Greipel into perfect position at the end of stage two, but Cavendish tore past him for the win.

Goss said Orica-GreenEDGE would have to work off Lotto-Belisol at the sprint finishes, with more likely in the next two stages before the hillier stages start.

"We have to, we haven't got a team that can ride from four kilometres to go on the front," Goss said.

"If we can sit back in the peloton until then and really wait for that last one, 1.5km to unleash, I think we can give it a real red-hot crack."

There was no change at the top of the overall standings, with Australian defending champion Cadel Evans managing to avoid the crash.

He remains seventh, 17 seconds behind Swiss leader Fabian Cancellara (Nissan Trek).

Stage four was a 214.5km race from Abbeville to the Normandy capital of Rouen in northeastern France.

NZ Newswire

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