Tour de France: Sagan delivers as Van Avermaet holds on to yellow jersey
Defending champion Chris Froome booed again at start village for Stage Five
Bora-Hansgrohe rider Peter Sagan of Slovakia winning Stage Five ahead of Bahrain-Merida rider Sonny Colbrelli of Italy. Photograph: Reuters/Stephane Mahe
The Slovak, however, benefited from his rivals’ lack of co-ordination in the final climb as Quick-Step Floors rider Julian Alaphilippe failed to follow up on team mate Philippe Gilbert’s attack, and Sagan finished with a brutal burst of speed.
Bora-Hansgrohe’s Sagan held off Italian Sonny Colbrelli, who was second, with Belgian Gilbert taking third place. Another Belgian, Greg van Avermaet, gritted his teeth in the finale to retain the overall leader’s yellow jersey.
All the overall contenders finished safely with the main bunch, Ireland’s Dan Martin riding strongly to finish sixth on the day and 24th overall at one minute 40 seconds.
“It was a really good sprint. Gilbert attacked, and I was well placed. He went early, and Colbrelli and I launched our sprint at the right moment. Sonny almost beat me, but I crushed the pedals harder,” Sagan said.
Thursday’s Sixth Stage has a similar profile but a harder uphill finish in Mur de Bretagne, where Sagan will probably struggle to take a third stage win in 2018. France’s Alaphilippe, who is six seconds off the pace overall, is widely expected to take the yellow jersey as the finale perfectly suits his abilities.
Wednesday’s stage had been dubbed a mini-Liege-Bastogne-Liege in reference to the oldest one-day classic, but, unlike Sagan, it failed to live up to expectations. The peloton dozed off during the major part of the 194.5km ride from Lorient, only controlling a seven-man breakaway that ended about 10km from the line, with Latvia’s Tom Skujins taking the polka dot jersey for the mountains classification.
Then the pace upped, and the stage favourites sprung into action. But the script had been written – victory for Sagan, who extended his lead in the points classification in his bid for a record-equalling sixth green jersey.
Meanwhile, tensions around Chris Froome and his Team Sky team-mates continue to simmer. The defending champion was booed once again at the sign-on at the start village for Stage Five, and a French fan holding up a “Sky go home” banner outside the Team Sky bus had it snatched out of his hands and tossed to the ground by a passing Sky rider. Froome’s team-mate Luke Rowe was subsequently identified as the Sky rider involved. Asked immediately afterwards by reporters if he had been the rider concerned, Rowe denied any involvement. “I don’t know what you mean, it wasn’t me.”