Tour de France 2013: Andre Greipel takes Stage 6; Daryl Impey in yellow

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Impey’s father was a pro cyclist in South Africa, said his wife. She said Impey also used to train with Burry Stander, a two-time Olympic mountain biker killed Jan. 3 when he was hit by a minibus taxi while biking with his wife. Stander was the second leading cyclist to be killed in a road accident in South Africa in recent years. Carla Swart died in January 2011 when she was hit by a truck while training.

Describing roads around Johannesburg as “pretty scary,” Alexandra Impey said: “I feel more relaxed when he’s training here in Europe.”

Greipel’s sprint-finish victory capped a hard day of riding for the pack, across 110 miles of flat, sun-kissed terrain from Aix-en-Provence.

Anxious that the region’s famous wind, the mistral, might blow hard and split up the race, teams cranked up the pace, reeling in a breakaway rider and motoring at high speed to make sure they wouldn’t get left behind. This in heat that turned tarmac sticky, with temperatures above 90 degrees.

Bottles flew from the peloton as riders emptied them and tossed them aside. At the finish, French rider Thibaut Pinot immediately pulled up at a drinks station, pouring a whole bottle of water over his head and downing another in huge gulps.

“We rode strong all day in poor conditions,” said Mark Cavendish, who won Stage 5 in a sprint but crashed late in Stage 6 and expended too much energy getting back into the race to challenge Greipel in the final dash.

Water-carrying is the job of so-called “domestiques,” racers who ride in support of leaders going either for overall victory or stage wins.

“The yellow jersey doesn’t get bottles, as a general rule,” said Matt White, a director on Impey’s team.

While leaders concentrate on staying up front, their support riders drop back to team cars behind the peloton to pick up drinks.

“It’s a dangerous place to be, getting water bottles at (37 miles per hour) and putting them in your pockets,” said White.

So leaders don’t do it.

Domestiques stuff bottles into pockets and inside their shirts.

“You look like an idiot, but it’s the easiest way to carry them,” said one of Greipel’s water carriers, Australian Adam Hansen.

Then they race back to distribute the drinks to teammates.

“When you’ve got to go all the way back and all the way forward, it’s hard work,” said Hansen.

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