TDF’16 St.5: Victorious Van Avermaet!
Race Report: The day belonged to Greg Van Avermaet as he infiltrated the break of the day then split the group to weed-out the non-workers. Thomas De Gendt took the mountains points and helped to keep the lead with Andriy Grivko, before Van Avermaet left his compatriot for the stage win and the yellow jersey.
The first mountain stage of Le Tour is finally here as the race headed into the beautiful, yet sparsely populated Cantal region. A day of action was promised and despite this ‘mountain’ stage not having any 1st or HC category climbs the race was still up and down all day with six categorized climbs but many, many more uncategorized bumps on the menu.
A hot day in the saddle, lots of climbs and the third day in a row of more than 200km – Stage 5 was going to hurt a lot of riders in the peloton.
The Day’s Break Goes Clear
The day’s profile looked interesting for the breakaway specialists so it was no surprise to see the big battle that was produced in the first hour of racing to make the break. Nine riders finally got away and this group was seemingly given the nod from the peloton as they quickly built up their lead. The nine riders were: Cyril Gautier (AG2R-La Mondiale), Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data), Rafal Majka (Tinkoff), Andriy Grivko (Astana), Bartosz Huzarski (Bora-Argon 18), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Romain Sicard (Direct Energie) and Florian Vachon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept).
With the gap building quickly to eight minutes you’d have thought that the break would stay together but Thomas de Gendt was getting upset by certain members of the break who he thought weren’t pulling through enough so he took off on his own. De Gendt was quickly joined by Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Andriy Grivko (Astana) who didn’t pull any punches with their turns and this trio soon built a gap of more than one minute over their former breakaway mates and nearly 12 minutes over the Sky led peloton with 90km remaining.
De Gendt Gets The Points
Over the third category Cote de Puy Saint-Mary it was Thomas De Gendt who raced away for the points but the trio quickly came together after the KOM line and they continued to work well together. The six chasers were also finally working well together too but their efforts were just holding the gap at 2m30s but they couldn’t bring the gap down with the leading trio now more than 14 minutes ahead of the Movistar/Sky led peloton. It now looked like we would have a new yellow jersey at the end of the stage with Van Avermaet the obvious candidate after he started the stage in 20th place just 18 seconds down on Peter Sagan.
Over the many small hills en route the same scenario kept playing out with the trio working very well together and when they got to the summit of the 7km long Col de Nebronne their lead over the six chasers was 3 minutes and 13 minutes over the peloton. It was De Gendt again who took the points uncontested as he continued his polka dot mission but back in the peloton the speed was being ramped up by the now 100% Movistar led peloton and the lead had dropped to 10m44s when the peloton crested the summit.
The ramping up of the speed from Movistar didn’t put any of the GC favorites in difficulty but it did quickly eject the sprinters from the peloton – with one notable exception being the yellow-clad Peter Sagan who was still climbing well at this stage.
First Big Climb
With heavy legs the leading trio hit the first big climb of the race the 2nd category, Pas de Peyrol 5.4km at an average gradient of 8.1% and Grivko was quickly dropped under the pressure of De Gendt on the steep slopes. The same story would play out three minutes later with the six chasers where Sicard and Vachon were the ones dropped as Majka ramped up the pace on the steep slopes.
This second category climb’s steep pitches combined with the heat and long day in the saddle was doing big damage up the front of the race and this trend would continue back in the peloton where the riders were being decimated under the pace set by Movistar. The yellow jersey of Peter Sagan was quickly dropped but more surprisingly so were many minor leaders or climbing super domestiques like Rui Costa, Vincenzo Nibali, Wout Poels, Jakob Fuglsgang or Tom Dumoulin.
The gap from the leading duo to the chasers was still hovering around the 3 minute mark but the gap back to the peloton was now under 7 minutes and the race for stage honors and even the possible yellow jersey of Van Avermaet was now looking more and more open with 20 difficult kilometers remaining.
Col du Perthus
Just one short decent later and the riders were already hitting their second, 2nd category climb of the day and once again this climb had some steep slopes in store and it was going to do some damage. Thomas De Gendt who had looked the strongest all day started showing signs of weakness and Van Avermaet noticed and attacked with 3km remaining to the summit on his now solo quest for the yellow jersey and the stage win.
Back with the chasers it was the Polish duo of Majka and Huzarski who proved the strongest as Pauwels and Gautier faded away but this pairing still wasn’t bringing back any time on the impressive Van Avermaet and the gap was still at three minutes.
The drastically reduced peloton of now just 29 riders didn’t lose any significant riders in the ascension of this tough little climb but the French pairing of white jersey clad Julien Alaphilippe (Quickstep) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) both showed real signs of suffering.
After a long day in the saddle we were now down to the last climb and it was seemingly only Greg Van Avermaet that was still riding for his life. His energy and speed was impressive after such a long break and he clearly had the yellow and the stage win in the bag – he was now fighting to have the biggest lead possible in the GC at the end of the day.
Back in the peloton that were still six minutes behind there was a seeming ceasefire as Sky took control and set a steady pace all the way up the climb with everyone happy to sit in the wheels. Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) wasn’t one for the ceasefire though as he took off in the last few hundred meters of the climb to hit the final dangerous descent first and put some other GC men under pressure. The Movistar duo of Valverde and Quintana were straight onto Bardet though and finally the only favorite caught out was Alberto Contador who was distanced just before the summit thanks to Bardet’s attack and who would go on to lose another thirty seconds of time to the other GC favorites.
The victor of the day though who deserved all the spoils was BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet who took a very well earned stage victory and a stint in the yellow jersey as he now leads the race by over five minutes ahead of Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx – Quick-Step) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
Thomas De Gendt came in 2m34s later for a well deserved 2nd place on the day and tomorrow he will be wearing polka dots as the new leader of the climber’s classification. Finally Majka just held on to third for the stage as the reduced peloton was led in by Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) with the likes of Peter Sagan and co. crossing the line over 25 minutes later. The real Tour started today and Alberto Contador lost time again – can he come back?
Tour de France Stage 5 Result:
1. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC in 5:31:36
2. Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 2:34
3. Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff at 5:04
4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha
5. Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx – Quick-Step at 5:07
6. Bartosz Huzarski (Pol) Bora-Argon 18
7. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx – Quick-Step
8. Adam Yates (GB) Orica-BikeExchange
9. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky
10. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC
11. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Cannondale-Drapac
12. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC
13. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
14. Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) FDJ
15. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar
16. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) LottoNl-Jumbo
17. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
18. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana
19. Sergio Henao (Col) Sky
20. Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Alpecin
21. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ
22. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
23. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre-Merida
24. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Katusha at 5:16
25. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff at 5:18.
Tour de France Overall After Stage 5:
1. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC in 25:34:46
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx – Quick-Step at 5:11
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 5:13
4. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 5:14
5. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky at 5:17
6. Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Alpecin
7. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar
8. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana
9. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Cannondale-Drapac
10. Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx – Quick-Step
11. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) LottoNl-Jumbo
12. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC
13. Adam Yates (GB) Orica-BikeExchange
14. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
15. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
16. Sergio Henao (Col) Sky
17. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Katusha at 5:26
18. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff at 5:28
19. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre-Merida
20. Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) FDJ
21. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ
22. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky at 5:57
23. Mathias Frank (Swi) IAM Cycling at 6:08
24. Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension Data at 6:30
25. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff at 6:38.