The German speedster, leading a thinned-out group of sprinters at the finish, got his 14th victory in all competitions this year while Cavendish nursed wounds from a late crash as the race entered Normandy.
Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara got briefly held up by the trouble but didn’t go down, and retained the overall lead for a fifth day after the 133-mile trek alongside the English Channel from Abbeville to Rouen.
The top standings didn’t change: Bradley Wiggins, the leader of Cavendish’s Team Sky hoping to be Britain’s first Tour winner, is second, 7 seconds behind the Swiss leader.
Defending champion Cadel Evans, of Australia, is 17 seconds off the pace in seventh.
With less than 2 miles left, a group spill brought down Cavendish, scraping up his rainbow-colored jersey of world champion. He looked a bit dazed as Sky staff checked him out and helped him get on a bike. He rode gingerly to finish the stage. The squad said he was banged up, but appeared to have no serious injuries and was likely to start today.
“Ouch.....,” Cavendish wrote on Twitter. “Crash at 2.5km to finish today. Taken some scuffs to my left side, but I’ve bounced pretty well again. Congrats to (at)AndreGreipel.”
With Cavendish out of the picture, Greipel burst out of the depleted group of sprinters, and sped to the straightaway finish, a split-second ahead of Italy’s Alessandro Petacchi and Dutch rider Tom Veelers.
The German said he didn’t pay much attention to the late crash.
“I heard something behind me ... but at 60 kilometers per hour, you don’t worry about what happened behind,” the Lotto-Belisol rider told France-2 TV.
While pro cyclists all run the risk of crashing, Cavendish’s spill amounted to a scare – if faint – to his high hopes of winning gold for Britain in the Olympic road race in August.