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TOUR’18 Stage 5: Sagan Scores Second Stage!
Stage Report: Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) might well have designed this stage, it was perfect for him and it's not a surprise that he stormed to victory at the finish. Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) was close, but not close enough for victory. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) still holds the yellow jersey, but lost two seconds to Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) who moved into third overall.

It was a brutal day in Brittany with plenty of climbing, both categorised and uncategorised. A group of seven went clear but that was reduced to just four as the climbing began. Sylvain Chavanel is enjoying his own company this Tour and he again went solo to take the king of the mountains jersey, although a late effort by Toms Skuijns means the two are tied on points with Chavanel only ahead on time. Skuijns and Lilian Calmejane were the last men standing and although they were a strong duo they were never really given enough of a lead to fight for the stage victory. When the race came back together it was always going to be a dogfight on the final climb and although Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet looked like they might take the stage win, in reality it was always Sagans. Colbrelli put in a late dig but he's unfortunately around in the same era as Sagan.

We're well in the Brittany region for stage five between Lorient and Quimper. At 204.5km this is another 200km+ stage after stage 1 and we're yet to drop below 180km during road stages this year. The route is one of two halves, the first half is gentle and rolling before we head to the short and sharp climbs which litter the second half. In total there are five categorised climbs; two fourth cat and three third cat.

The hardest of the climbs is the Cote de Menez Quelerc'h (3km @ 6.2%) which comes just under 50km before the line. The Cote de la Montagne de Locronan (2.2km @ 5.9%) is closer to the line, 23km, and may provide a launchpad for a long range attack. The bonus point comes 12km from the finish but it's on an uncategorised wall, the Cote de la Chapelle de la Lorette (0.7km @ 9.3%). It opens with 200m at 9.5% before easing to 8.5% for another 200m and finishes with a hellish 9.6% for the final 300m. It might not look like much on the profile but this could be the final nail in the coffin for any sprinters who are hanging on and hoping that it will come back together at the finish. Even if the sprinters do make it to the last kilometre it's far from straightforward, there finish rises up 41m in the last km, an average of 4.1%, this is a real day for the hard men.

The chasing trio had been employing some unusual tactics but they were now up to Chavanel and it was four riders against the BMC led pack. There was some drama behind as Chris Froome (Sky) required a bike change but he was shepherded back to pack with minimal issues.

An Easy Start
With the finale being so hard to control it was a good day to be in a breakaway. The day's break formed quite quickly however and it was Lilian Calmejane and Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), Jasper De Buyst (Lotto Soudal), Julien Vermote (Team Dimension Data), Toms Skuijns (Trek-Segafredo), Elie Gesbert (Fortuneo-Samsic), and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis).

Meanwhile there was some news from back in the peloton, Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) had crashed yesterday and abandoned overnight, Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) had picked up a fever overnight and had been forced to abandon before the start of the day and Robert Kiserlovski (Katusha-Alpecin) made it to the start but crashed in the neutral zone and was forced to abandon. Kiserlovski's departure capped a miserable day for the Katusha-Alpecin team who had team leader Ilnur Zakarin lose time yesterday and now lost one of their mountain domestiques. There were some reports that the Croat was brought down by a motorbike.

The break built their lead beyond the four minute mark and the race settled into the rhythm of the early parts of the stage before they faced the difficulties of the second half.

Shark Tooth
The moment that marked the start of the second half was the climb of the Cote de Kaliforn (1.7km @ 7.1%) which put the other fourth category climbs we've seen so far into focus - this was a proper climb.

Sylvain Chavanel decided to push on at the front and he attacked the breakaway members. The Frenchman is probably riding in his final Tour and he was keen to wear a jersey for at least some of it. He crested the climb and continued on.

In the peloton BMC were doing all the work and they were gaining ground on the break but the pace wasn't infernal yet, surprisingly though it was enough to put Mark Cavendish (Dimension-Data) in difficulty. The British rider is searching for Eddy Merckx's Tour de France record of 34 stage wins and he is just four stages from equalling it. Since 2013 he has only raced the Tour de France but he's yet to win this year and it's 2016 since he last took a stage, gone are the years where he could turn up expecting to take five stages home but his form in the race so far has been disappointing.

Chavanel continued his solo effort and made it over the Cote de Trimen in the lead. Chavanel was now the only rider with two KoM points. His gap to the break had grown towards the minute mark, they had lost some firepower as well as Elie Gesbert lost control on a straight descent and veered into the undergrowth on the side of the road. The Fortuneo-Samsic rider was out of the break but he was okay as he remounted and fell back to the peloton with only dented pride and a brown splodge on his right shoulder.

The race settled down as the peloton headed towards the first of the third category climbs but the pace was rising. That wasn't good for the sprinters and Cavendish and Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) were really starting to suffer with 70km left to go. In the break Chavanel was starting to come back to the fold and Skuijns was the first rider to push on, he was followed by Edet and Calmejane. Behind, De Bruyst and Vermote were really struggling as the race picked up and they were going backwards. The stage was coming to a nice simmer.

The pace had kept rising and the break's advantage was now just two minutes, and falling rapidly. The pace was creating some nerves and there was a crash near the back of the pack. Dion Smith (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), the current polka dot wearer hit the deck along with team mate Yoann Offredo, they were okay and sat up to ride in at their own pace. Cavendish and Kittel were now more than four minutes back as the difficulty of this stage was really beginning to bite.

The break had slowly falling apart and now only Skuijns and Calmejane remained with just over two minutes back to the peloton. Skuijns took the points at the summit of the Cote de Menez Quelerc'h as the duo pushed on, they were now at the mercy of the peloton who were very inconsistent with their pace. Edet had been yo-yoing off the back of the leading duo and although he got back on with 40km left to ride he was almost immediately kicked off the back on a small rise.

We were inside the final 30km and there hadn't yet been any teams setting the pace apart from BMC and Bora-Hansgrohe. The gap was drifting between the 1:30 and two minute mark but it was starting to spend more time at the lower amount unfortunately for the leaders.

Keeping track of Edet was enough to make you dizzy, he was now back with the leaders but wasn't able to contribute too much and you got the impression that he could be dropped at will. They were on the final categorised climb and the gap was now just 1:19. Skuijns was leading the way on the climb and although he was looking good the gap was just a minute now. There wasn't much life left in this break and the BMC pursuit was furious now and on the narrow roads the bunch were spread out but with 1km left to the summit the bunch eased off. Skuijns pushed on and Calmejane went with him but Edet was gone once again.

Skuijns took the final points of the day and the lead had stretched out again to one minute ahead of a heavily reduced pack. Movistar were now moving to the front after BMC had done all the work and the gap was tumbling, it was now half a minute. The leading duo were on the ramp to the bonus points but they were now within sight of the Movistar led peloton. Calmejane made a move towards the top but he was caught before the summit. Rein Taaramäe (Direct Energie) was the next to go clear but he was brought to heel relatively quickly to set up a bunch finish.

Sky were all over the front of the bunch as the drag to the finish began but they were swamped and Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) took to the front and began to stretch away but Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) hit the front for a very long sprint. He was just Peter Sagan's (Bora-Hansgrohe) lead out man though and Sagan emerged into the wind with the line in sight. Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) was closing but Sagan had another kick and although the leaves may fall and the wind may change and the rain may come, Sagan will always win these sprints. It was a stalemate for the GC contenders, today was all about Sagan.

Tour de France Stage 5 Result:
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe in 4:48:06
2. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
3. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
5. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors
6. Daniel Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates
7. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC
8. Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Sunweb
9. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
10. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
11. Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis
12. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky
13. Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
14. Chris Froome (GB) Sky
15. Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Soudal
16. Egan Bernal (Col) Sky
17. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar
18. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC
19. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana
20. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
21. Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar
22. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
23. Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
24. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
25. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo.

Tour de France Overall After Stage 5:
1. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC in 18:22:00
2. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC at 0:02
3. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors at 0:03
4. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky at 0:05
5. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors at 0:06
6. Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors at 0:09
7. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Sunweb at 0:13
8. Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Sunweb
9. Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale at 0:37
10. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe at 0:52
11. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana at 0:53
12. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC
13. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 0:55
14. Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar
15. Chris Froome (GB) Sky at 0:57
16. Adam Yates (GB) Mitchelton-Scott at 1:02
17. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida at 1:08
18. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 1:17
19. Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo
20. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
21. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo at 1:18
22. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
23. Egan Bernal (Col) Sky at 1:21
24. Daniel Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates at 1:40
25. Pierre Rolland (Fra) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale at 1:45.


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