Impey first African to wear yellow jersey

South African cyclist Daryl Impey says his win will put cycling on the map in South Africa.

FILE: South African cyclist Daryl Impey.

MONTPELLIER/FRANCE - Germany's Andre Greipel timed his final burst to perfection to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France on Thursday when South Africa's Daryl Impey became the first African to wear the yellow jersey.

Greipel, of the Lotto-Belisol team, beat Slovakian Peter Sagan and fellow German Marcel Kittel at the end of a 176.5-km ride from Aix-en-Provence.

Briton Mark Cavendish, winner of the fifth stage, came home fourth after a crash with some 30 kilometres left. Cavendish was fuming after the stage, blaming the incident on his bike.

Impey said it was a momentous day for the sport in his home country. "It is definitely going to change things and put cycling on the map in South Africa, and hopefully people will recognise me," the 28-year-old Orica rider said.

Pre-race favourites Chris Froome of Britain, seventh overall eight seconds off the pace, and Alberto Contador, 11th six seconds further back, finished safely in the bunch.

"I told the guys to wait as long as possible and everybody to stay together," said Greipel who now has five Tour de France stage victories to his name. "We hit the front with two kilometres to go and I think people can see we have some horsepower. I'm really proud of this team."

Greipel's win was even more impressive because team mate Jurgen van den Broeck, fourth overall last year, became the first high-profile casualty when he could not start because of a knee injury he sustained in a pile-up on Wednesday.

France's Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) and Swede Fredrik Kessiakoff of Astana, who were also involved in Wednesday's crash, pulled out during the stage.

There were more woes for Astana as team leader Janez Brajkovic of Slovenia withdrew from the race after the stage following a nasty crash in the final stages.

Impey leads Edvald Boasson Hagen of Norway (Team Sky) by three seconds in the overall standings with Australian Simon Gerrans (Orica) a further two seconds back.

Sagan (Cannondale) retained the green jersey for the points classification with 159 points, ahead of Greipel (130) and Cavendish (119).

Stage seven will take the peloton 205.5km from Montpellier to Albi on Friday, with the mountains looming over the weekend when the favourites will be put to the test for the first time.