Every story you read about stage 5 of the Tour de France, from Lorient to Quimper, in the region of cycling-mad Brittany, says it was a classics kinda day, an Andrennes vibe.
As the winner, Peter Sagan said, it was “a little bit like the Ardennes – up, down, left, right and a little bit narrow roads. It was a nice parcours.” Super nice if you nab your second stage of this year’s Grand Shindig — and tenth in total — and take a 33 point lead over Fernando Gaviria (Quickstep) in the green jersey competition.
All the classics guys were up front on the final, steep drag to the finish line: Valverde(Moivstar, Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Martin (GGGG) and Philippe Gilbert and Julian Alaphilippe (Quickstep Floors).
Gilbert went early and lost his legs, then Van Avermaet went early because he thought the finish was 100 meters closer. Sagan simply waited, perfectly positioned in third or fourth wheel, until it was time to assert his dominance. Only a surging Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) even got close to Sagan. If the Italian could get his timing right, he might possibly win a stage.
In previous years, Van Avermaet had an impressive record in head-to-head battles with Sagan. This year, not so much. In fact, because of his miscalculation in this sprint, he ended up giving Sagan a nice lead-out. “I think that Van Avermaet started too early and, in the end, he pulled a very good sprint for me and Colbrelli.”
Three sprinters who didn’t even get close to sprinting? That would be Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) and Fernando Gaviria (Quickstep). The rock and rolling hills of Brittany made sure that Cav and Kittel went off the back with almost 80 kilometers to go.
This obviously isn’t the vintage Milan-San Remo-winning Cavendish, who had no trouble getting over those Italian hills. Kittel simply appears out of sorts and we’re wondering what the issue is — kinda late in the season to still be having train trouble. The big German certainly isn’t classics material and needs a well-scripted and chauffeured ride to the last 1000 meters.
Mr. Green Jersey, Peter Sagan, will be looking forward to the uphill finish on Thursday’s Mûr de Bretagne. The locals like to call the two kilometer climb the “Breton Alpe d’Huez.” Sagan will probably call it stage win number three.