Peter Sagan of BORA-Hansgrohe has his first stage win of the 2019 Tour de France. The Slovakian sprinted to the win ahead of Wout Van Aert of Jumbo-Visma and Matteo Trentin of Mitchelton-SCOTT.
Stage 5 of the Tour de France took the full compliment of 176 riders on a 175.5km journey from Saint-Dié-des-Vosges to Colmar. Although there was every possibility of a bunch sprint finish there was also the possibility that the parcours – that featured three second and third category climbs in the space of 55 second half kilometres – that a breakaway could really fancy their chances.
Thomas De Gendt of Lotto Soudal, Ben King of Dimension Data, Oliver Naesen of AG2R La Mondiale were all among the early aggressors; but no dice were given by the peloton with such firepower in the move. De Gendt wasn’t done yet as he tried again in a move alongside Benoît Cosnefroy of AG2R La Mondiale and Jan Tratnik of Bahrain Merida. But it seemed that De Gendt’s reputation was proving too dangerous for the peloton and they were again brought back before finally a move managed to go up the road.
Lotto Soudal were again represented courtesy of polka dot jersey wearer Tim Wellens, EF Education First’s Simon Clarke, Trek-Segafredo’s Toms Skuijins and Katusha-Alpecin’s Mads Würtz Schmidt. Quickly the break managed to build a lead that went out to 2 minutes but the peloton weren’t giving much more than that. BORA-Hansgrohe were among the leaders in the pack, keeping the break at that 2 minute mark as Wellens picked up the first KOM points on the Cote de Grendelbruch.
Deceuninck-Quick Step and Team Sunweb weren’t far from the front of the race while after his exploits in days one and two it appeared that George Bennett was really reserving himself for tomorrow’s first big mountain stage. The Jumbo-Visma climber was content sitting at the back of the bunch with a couple of other teammates knowing that tomorrow’s stage to La Planche des Belles Filles would be a true test of himself and the team.
After the peloton brought the break back to within 1.15mins, the quartet managed to rebuild their advantage back up to 2 minutes again as they arrived at the intermediate sprint. Simon Clarke was after the points, and he duly took maximum points without challenge from second placed Würtz. Behind them the uphill drag made for an interesting contest, with Elia Viviani taking fifth place ahead of Peter Sagan. Their effort had brought the break back to within 1.38mins but the leaders had no trouble re-extending that advantage back over 2.20mins.
The first category 2 climb began with 71.6km to go; lasting 5.9km and averaging 5.9%. This was Tim Wellens’ time to shine and he was prominent on the front of the break, leading the break but he faced no challenge from the rest of the move; making maximum points easy to acquire.
With 60km to go the break’s lead had dropped to 1.36mins and it wasn’t completely clear whether the break would survive through the KOM climbs that would take the riders up to 19.5km to go. The break held their own though for the most part, steadily growing their lead back out to almost two minutes as the peloton – still led by BORA-Hansgrohe and Deceuninck-Quick Step – kept the move within arm’s length.
It was on the next climb of the day that the break fragmented. Würtz was the first to go back to the peloton as Toms Skujins went on the offensive. The intensity was beginning to rise within the peloton as the GC teams moved forward like Bahrain Merida and Team Ineos. Tim Wellens dropped Simon Clarke on the climb and bridged to within 12 seconds of Skujins; before the Latvian again managed to stretch out his lead and cross the line with maximum points this time, with Wellens shortly afterwards.
Skujins decided not to wait for the polka dot jersey, possibly knowing that he was riding on borrowed time as the peloton closed to within 53 seconds with 32km to go. Clarke caught up with him, but so too did the Sunweb-led bunch with just under 30km to go. Skujins was the last man standing, pushing the pace with a 54 second lead with 29km to go but he was caught before the top of the final climb.
Team Sunweb were in control of the peloton at this stage, leading the way as the likes of Alaphilippe, Sagan, Valverde and co all began to swarm at the front of the bunch. Approaching the summit of the climb Wanty-Gobert’s Xandro Meurisse picked up maximum points in a smart tactical move that put him within 11 points of Wellens at the top of the KOM standings.
The last of the climbs done, attention now turned to the finish and getting down the descent safely. Ineos were prominent on the front now in the company of Team Sunweb; with the yellow jersey of Alaphilippe still there at the head of the race although without much team support. George Bennett continued to take things easy on the back of the bunch in preparation for the first big mountain stage tomorrow.
7.4km from the finish Rui Costa of UAE Team Emirates went on the attack, disrupting the natural order of the finale. Sunweb didn’t respond initially, allowing the Portuguese to gain a quick 8 second time gap. That lead went out to double figures, leaving the peloton with a bit of work to do as Jumbo-Visma and BORA-Hansgrohe got involved in the pursuit. With 3km to go Costa still had the lead, but the peloton were well in view of the three-time stage winner.
The sprinters were beginning to flock at the front and with 2km to go Maximilian Schachmann led the catch. Wout Van Aert was positioned on fourth wheel ready for the sprint as Sunweb again took the lead. Peter Sagan in the maillot vert was perfectly positioned, but behind him Michael Matthews was fighting to get in position; finally pushing his way to align himself with Daryl Impey of Mitchelton-SCOTT.
Matiej Mohoric of Bahrain Merida looked like he might spoil the party with a semi-attack, but Impey and Matteo Trentin were on to him straight away. In the end it was Impey who led the sprint out with Jasper Stuyven of Trek-Segafredo sitting second wheel. As Impey sat up, though, Peter Sagan made his kick for the line and he did it superbly; taking the stage comfortably with a powerful finishing sprint.
Wout Van Aert achieved his best road race result in the Tour de France with a late dash that saw him climb from about 7th place to 2nd; with Matteo Trentin being edged for third.
Tomorrow sees the first big mountain stage of the Tour de France take the GC contenders into focus. George Bennett sits 4th overall at 25 seconds with teammate and team leader Steven Kruijswijk one place above him in third.