We had our first real shake-up of the general classification on the slopes of of the Massif Central, as Greg Van Avermaet soloed away to victory and took a five-minute lead on all of the favorites for the yellow jersey. The 31-year-old Belgian veteran, more well known as a one-day classics rider than a stage racer, nonetheless opened this season with a win at Tirreno-Adriatico and followed up with a win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad later in the spring. While he is not likely to sustain the momentum he has built up through the Pyrenees and the Alps, Van Avermaet has put the rest of the peloton on notice.
Van Avermaet’s successful day in the heart of France began by latching on to a nine-man breakaway that had built up a two-minute advantage about a half-hour into the stage. The lead ballooned to over six minutes for the group, but a lack of cohesion led Van Avermaet to bolt away with Andriy Grivko and Thomas De Gendt. The trio pulled clear relatively easily, building an advantage of more than two minutes on the half-dozen cyclists in the first chase group and over 12 minutes on the main peloton as the leaders began the climb of the third-category Cote Saint-Mary. By that point, as the gap continued to grow, it looked like the breakaway might finally survive after days of being reeled back in by the sprinters’ teams.
The chase finally coalesced and began to organize itself, but never could get the deficit back under two minutes for the rest of the day. On the Puy Mary, a second-category climb that served as the fourth of six categorized climb on the profile, things really began to break up as the chase group splintered with the effort. Grivko also fell back from the lead group on the road, leaving just the two Belgians to battle for the spoils.
For the longest time it looked like the younger De Gendt had the advantage, fluidly climbing and pulling Van Avermaet out of his saddle with the accelerations. Having finished on the podium at the 2012 Giro d’Italia, De Gendt also proved the more dangerous challenger to the pre-race GC hierarchy of contenders, but he also knew that he could not win if he dragged Van Avermaet to the line.
The penultimate climb provided the stage for the decisive move, but it went counter to expectation. It was Van Avermaet, rather than De Gendt, who accelerated on the lower pitches of the Col du Perthus to solo away toward the summit. By the time Van Avermaet was descending toward the last climb to Le Lioran, he had already developed a 90-second gap on his compatriot. Less than 15 minutes later, Van Avermaet was sitting up and celebrating his ride into the yellow jersey at the finish line.
Behind him, De Gendt coasted in two and a half minutes later but still failed to crack his way into the top 10 on GC. The biggest loser had to be Alberto Contador, who crashed on each of the first two stages of this year’s race and conceded another 33 seconds to the other main contenders. Now 6:38 in arrears and buried down in 25th place, it will be interesting to see if the Spaniard can ride his way back into form or if he is relegated to second-tier status before we even get to the high mountains.
While it is unlikely to last for Van Avermaet, the Belgian nevertheless claimed the biggest win of his decade-long pro career at a lesser-known ski resort in the Massif Central. How long he continues to wear the jersey remains to be seen, though he should manage to maintain it at least through the next stage.
Tomorrow’s 190.5-kilometer ride from Arpajon Sur-Cere to Montauban has three short, punchy lower-category climbs in the middle of the stage before leveling out for most of the final 30 kilometers. This will be the last chance for sprinters to claim a stage win before the roads really begin to escalate skyward over three Pyrenean stages. Look for Mark Cavendish to seek out his third stage win of the race as he tries to wrest away the green jersey from Peter Sagan; Marcel Kittel, Andre Greipel, and Bryan Coquard could also threaten at the line.
Stage Results and Standings after Stage 5
|1||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team||5:31:36|
|2||Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal||+0:02:34|
|3||Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff Team||+0:05:04|
|4||Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha|
|5||Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx – Quick-Step||+0:05:07|
|6||Bartosz Huzarski (Pol) Bora-Argon 18|
|7||Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx – Quick-Step|
|8||Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange|
|9||Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky|
|10||Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team|
General Classification (yellow jersey)
|1||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team||25:34:46|
|2||Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx – Quick-Step||+0:05:11|
|3||Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team||+0:05:13|
|4||Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha||+0:05:14|
|5||Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky||+0:05:17|
|6||Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Alpecin|
|7||Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team|
|8||Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team|
|9||Pierre Rolland (Fra) Cannondale-Drapac|
|10||Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx – Quick-Step|
Points Classification (green jersey)
|1||Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team||150|
|2||Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data||146|
|3||Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx – Quick-Step||142|
|4||Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie||89|
|5||André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal||87|
|6||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team||67|
|7||Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha||56|
|8||Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx – Quick-Step||50|
|9||Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal||48|
|10||Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo||45|
King of the Mountains (polka-dot jersey)
|1||Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal||13|
|2||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team||11|
|3||Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo||5|
|4||Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team||5|
|5||Paul Voss (Ger) Bora-Argon 18||2|
|6||Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff Team||2|
|7||Armindo Fonseca (Fra) Fortuneo – Vital Concept||1|
|8||Vegard Breen (Nor) Fortuneo – Vital Concept||1|
|9||Markel Irizar (Spa) Trek-Segafredo||1|
|10||Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff Team||1|
Best Young Rider (white jersey)
|1||Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx – Quick-Step||25:39:57|
|2||Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Alpecin||+0:00:06|
|3||Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo|
|4||Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange|
|5||Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre – Merida||+0:00:17|
|6||Eduardo Sepulveda (Arg) Fortuneo – Vital Concept||+0:03:33|
|7||Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Argon 18|
|8||Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Argon 18||+0:05:34|
|9||Lawson Craddock (USA) Cannondale-Drapac||+0:09:01|
|10||Tsgabu Grmay (Eth) Lampre – Merida||+0:17:52|