Andre Greipel has won the latest stage of the Tour de France, joining an elite group of Germans who have won three stages in a single year. Favored Briton Bradley Wiggins has kept hold of the leader's yellow jersey.
The 29-year-old Greipel narrowly pipped Slovak Peter Sagan at the post in a sprint finish after Saturday's 217-kilometer (135-mile) stage from Saint Paul Trois Chateaux to Le Cap d'Agde on France's southern Mediterranean coast.
"I'm over the moon, this is a great day," Greipel said, having narrowly lost out in a sprint against Sagan on an earlier stage finishing in Metz. "I am really very happy that I was able to beat him in such a close fight."
The Team Lotto-Belisol rider joins an elite club of just five Germans to have won three or more stages in a single Tour de France; 1997 champion Jan Ullrich managed it in 1998 and, most recently, Erik Zabel scored a stage hat trick in 2001. Greipel won back-to-back stages in Rouen and then Saint-Quentin in the first week of cycling's most prestigious event.
Greipel is still wearing bandages after a nasty fall during stage 6, which helps explain why he's only 114th overall, almost two hours behind the leaders.
Wiggins retains yellow jersey
Overall leader Bradley Wiggins was part of the leading pack seeking glory on Saturday - he surprisingly took matters into his own hands and launched the first attempt to sprint ahead to victory in the closing stages.
Wiggins finished just a few seconds behind Greipel, and neck and neck with one of his closest challengers Vicenzo Nibali.
The British multiple Olympic medalist and Team Sky rider remains just over two minutes clear of his teammate and countryman Christopher Froome, with the Sicilian Nibali less than 20 seconds back, in third place.
The race around France continues until July 22, when riders will compete in the traditional sprint finish along Paris' world-renowned Champs-Elysees.
msh/mkg (AP, dpa, Reuters, SID)