(CNN) -- Daryl Impey became the first South African to don the famous yellow jersey as Andre Greipel powered to his first stage win on the year's Tour de France in Montpellier Thursday.
Impey claimed the race lead from Orica-GreenEdge teammate Simon Gerrans by virtue of taking 13th place behind Germany's Greipel in the frantic dash for the line.
The star sprinters finished in a small group -- five seconds ahead of the main bunch -- which included Australia's Gerrans and all the main favorites for overall victory.
Impey now leads the standings by three seconds from Team Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen with Gerrans in third place at five seconds.
"It'll sink in tomorrow but I think it's going to be amazing to ride in the Tour de France as the leader," he told the race's official website.
"I'm going to be on a high the whole way to the finish and hopefully I'll feel like I'm floating," Impey added.
He paid tribute to Gerrans, content to sit in the bunch while Impey played his role of lead out man for the team's sprinter Matt Goss, who faded to 15th on the stage.
"He was happy enough to let the jersey go and to give me this opportunity to wear this jersey for South Africa and myself."
It was also a triumphant day for Lotto's Greipel, edged out Slovakian Peter Sagan and fellow German Marcel Kittel after the 176.5 km from Aix-en- Provence with Britain's Mark Cavendish in fourth place.
Cavendish was held up by a crash 34km from the finish and had to chase back on to the fast moving bunch.
Bidding for a second straight stage win, he could not come to terms with former teammate Greipel and sat up before the line.
Friday's seventh stage takes the peloton over 205.5 km ride from Montpellier to Albi.
The main contenders, such as race favorite Chris Froome of Team Sky, will get their first chance to shine in the race's first mountain stages in the Pyrenees Saturday and Sunday.