Lotto-Belisol’s train rolled into Rouen in north western France with André Greipel in a first-class seat. Jürgen Roelandts stretched the group out heading into town, Greg Henderson took over and Greipel finished the job ahead of Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) to win Tour de France stage four.

Greipel had been the only one to push Mark Cavendish (Sky) to the line in stage two to Tournai. Cavendish crashed today in the final three kilometres and was unable to contest the stage.

“I know we have the horsepower in the team. I was close on Monday but I wanted to take the victory today. I had a good feeling,” Greipel said in a press conference. Asked about the absence of Cavendish, he said, “Monday showed that I’m competitive. I hope we can see another sprint against him.”

“It’s always the same. The first day Cav won the stage, most of the people told us that Lotto worked all day even if he won the stage,” Lotto DS, Herman Frison told Cycling Weekly. “Today, another situation. Cav is alone with Eisel, all the riders know to stay in the wheel of Greipel, they are fighting and fighting. It’s not our problem, but for the others.”

Roelandts led over the bridge into town, downhill and kept charging towards the line. Henderson relieved him with 500 metres remaining and left Greipel at 200 metres out. The speeds were fast, lending themselves to crashes.

“I heard it, it happened behind. You can imagine it’d be a fight behind Greipel’s wheel, they all want the Lotto lead-out,” Henderson continued. “It’s a fight, you touch wheels at 60K an hour, shit happens quite quickly.”

With the crash behind, Greipel could focus on his second Tour de France win. Last year, he went head-to-head with Cavendish in Carmaux and won. Lotto worked to beef his train over the winter and brought in former HTC-Highroad team-mate Henderson.

Greipel also relied on Roelandts, who fought back to be in the Tour. In the Tour Down Under, he crashed and fractured a vertebra in his neck on stage one. Henderson said the team’s tight bond makes a difference for Greipel.

“If your job is to finish at 200m, then you just go to 200m and pull off. If it feels like you need to go longer, then you go longer,” Henderson explained. “You just find an extra couple of pedal strokes to ride that little harder or go that little further.”

Greipel battled for leadership in his years together with Cavendish at Highroad. Only last year, did they have separate teams and a chance to sprint head-to-head. Cavendish congratulated his former team-mate on Twitter today after the win.

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Tour de France 2012: Teams, riders, start list

Tour 2012: Who will win?

Tour de France 2012 provisional start list

Tour de France 2012 team list

Tour de France 2012: Stage reports

Stage four: Greipel wins stage after Cavendish crashes

Stage three: Sagan runs away with it in Boulogne

Stage two: Cavendish takes 21st Tour stage victory

Stage one: Sagan wins at first attempt

Prologue: Cancellara wins, Wiggins second

Tour de France 2012: Comment, analysis, blogs

Analysis: How much time could Wiggins gain in Tour’s time trials

CW’s Tour de France podcasts

Blog: Tour presentation – chasing dreams and autographs

Comment: Cavendish the climber

Tour de France 2012: Photo galleries

Stage four by Graham Watson

Stage three by Graham Watson

Stage two by Andy Jones

Stage two by Graham Watson

Stage one by Graham Watson

Prologue photo gallery by Andy Jones

Prologue photo gallery by Roo Rowler

Prologue photo gallery by Graham Watson

Tour de France 2012: Team presentation

Sky and Rabobank Tour de France recce

Tour de France 2012: Live text coverage

Stage three live coverage

Cycling Weekly’s live text coverage schedule

Tour de France 2012: TV schedule

ITV4 live schedule

British Eurosport live schedule

Tour de France 2012: Related links

Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Cavendish

Brief history of the Tour de France

Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index

1989: The Greatest Tour de France ever