A dramatic shift in the difficulty of the parcours would be a shock to the system for riders on stage 5, with the terrain closer to an Ardennes classic than a Tour de France stage. This hard route put the win out of reach for the pure sprinters and brought the all-rounders into play, with a hard final climb just before the finish line to contend with. Dropped into position expertly by his BORA-hansgrohe teammates, the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, looked the very definition of calm, even when the other teams kicked hard and upped the pace. Timing his sprint to perfection, the Slovak rider left his rivals in his wake, taking the win by more than a bike length to retain the race’s Maillot Vert for the 90th time in his career. In the GC race, Rafał Majka climbed to 10th overall, making the most of the hard terrain.
The parcours today was dramatically different from the previous three road stages. In contrast to the flat terrain, stage 5 would see the peloton tackle five categorised climbs. While these were a mixture of third and fourth category, the most difficult being the Côte de Menez Queler’ch at 159.5km, the number of climbs combined with the stage’s distance – an energy-sapping 204.5km – would make this the hardest day of the Tour so far. The stronger all-rounders would have their eye on taking the stage win today, but the mixture of the demanding profile, the hot weather and four hard days of racing meant the outcome was far from decided.
The Team Tactics
It would be a long day in the saddle today, with a lot of work to do before the finish. The intermediate sprint would come at 92.5km today, and so in order to prevent a large group taking all of the points, it was essential to cover the early attacks, with Lukas, Gregor, and Pawel keeping an eye on the breakaways early on, before riding at the front ahead of the sprint to enable Peter Sagan to take as many points here as possible. From there, the plan was to make the race fast, both to draw in the day’s break and to tire out his rivals in the finale. Staying with Peter in the closing kilometres, Rafał and Daniel would be working both to make sure he had a chance at the stage win, as well as to ensure Rafał maintained his GC position.
The character of the stage was very different from the preceding days, and the peloton started nervously, knowing that after a flat start, the parcours would become progressively harder. A crash in the opening kilometres increased the nerves in the bunch, but shortly after a group of seven made their escape and became the day’s breakaway, quickly building a gap of 2:30. The strength of this group meant the peloton wouldn’t want to allow them too much of a lead, and when this gap hit 5:20, the bunch took action to bring this down, spurred on as well by the intermediate sprint, in which the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, took ninth spot – second from the main bunch to cross the line. An attack from within the escape reduced their number, and it was clear the remaining riders were struggling, in spite of some attempts to bridge. In the bunch, BORA-hansgrohe took to the front, with Daniel Oss, Maciej Bodnar and Marcus Burghardt each playing their part in reducing the gap, with the breakaway being no match for the determined peloton. The catch was made with 10km remaining, and it was all on for the finish. High speeds stretched the bunch, but Peter was there, hovering in the background a few riders back, looking completely calm and untroubled by the climbs and the increase in pace. Finishing more than a bike length ahead, the Slovak rider took the win, making it look easy as only he can.
01 P.Sagan 4h48’06”
02 S.Colbrelli +0:00
03 P.Gilbert +0:00
04 A.Valverde +0:00
05 J.Alaphilippe +0:00
From the Finish Line
“My BORA-hansgrohe teammates did an amazing job today – Bodi and Burghardt were pulling on the front from the middle of the stage before everyone else brought me into position for the final climb. In the final stretch, Sky started to pull hard and go full speed, and then Gilbert came over the climb fast too. He tried to attack but we caught him and after, I think Van Avermaet started a little too early, so it really left me and Colbrelli to fight it out. I was pretty lucky because Colbrelli was coming close near the end. During the Tour de France everything is different, but the parcours was like an Ardennes classic – up down, left, right, narrow roads. Technically it was a nice parcours. While there weren’t as many points today – just 30 for the win – it’s better than nothing though, and tomorrow is another day.” – Peter Sagan, UCI World Champion
“Today, it was even more important to be in the right position before the last downhill section. Every single guy did a stellar job in the last 30km and as a result, Peter got another chance to take the win. He was there, he waited, and like he often does, he picked the right moment to launch his sprint. It was an impressive second stage win! Still, we are already looking forward to tomorrow. Every day is another day, and we‘ll try it tomorrow again.” – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director