Porte relieved to stay close after ‘super-fast’ stage
PETER Sagan has hit back in his green jersey battle with Fernando Gaviria, saluting at the end of a furious finale to Stage 5.
On a gruelling, twisting, uphill stretch to the finish, Sagan again timed his run perfectly, waiting for Philippe Gilbert and then Greg Van Avermaet to try and fail before launching his decisive strike.
The win puts Sagan and Gaviria level on two stage wins each from four road stages, with the former retaining the green jersey.
"My teammates did a very good job, from the middle of the stage they were pulling on the front. They brought me into a good position for the final climb," Sagan said.
"Gilbert came over and tried to attack, but we caught him. I think that Van Avermaet started too early and in the end he pulled a very good sprint for me and (runner-up Sonny) Colbrelli."
Five classified climbs in the final 100km of the 204.5km saw sprinters Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel dropped before a breathless run-in ensued as Chris Froome and Team Sky took control at the base of the last ascent.
Ultimately, there were no changes in the general classification, but after a pancake-flat first four days, the shots have now been fired.
"I think it was the hardest stage by far in this Tour so it feels nice to do some proper racing," Aussie star Richie Porte said.
"That was a technical run-in to that. It was hell for leather, but it's nice to get it done and not lose time. It was super-fast."
Despite falling short on the stage, Porte's teammate Van Avermaet retained the yellow jersey.
"Greg's allowed to defend the jersey, as he should be, and the rest of the guys were around me," Porte said of BMC's dual priorities.
"The guys were fantastic today, controlling everything and everyone played their part. It was a hot, tough, little stage."
Aussie Simon Clarke, charged with helping Colombian Rigoberto Uran in his quest for the title, was similarly happy to tick this one off.
"We train for stages like this. For sure it was tough, but the Tour de France isn't designed to be easy," Clarke said.
"It was good to get 'Rigo' safely to the finish on bunch time. It feels a bit boring not necessarily racing for the win each day, but basically until the first rest day (July 16th) you can't win the Tour de France, but you can lose it.
"It's all about next Monday (Stage 10) and then we look at how we can try and win it."
The stage was marked by an early breakaway of seven riders, who covered more than 47km in the first hour to establish a maximum advantage of four minutes.
With 85km to go the breakaway group had reduced to five when Elie Gesbert lost control on a fast descent and slid into a roadside ditch.
Froome had a bike problem with 65km to go, but quickly changed bikes before three teammates helped him swiftly bridge across to the bunch led in large part by Aussie Simon Gerrans.
Behind them there was yet another crash, this time involving Mikel Nieve, Yoann Offredo, Patrick Bevin and Anthony Turgis.
The difficulty increases again on Stage 6 with a double-ascent of the 2km Mur de Bretagne awaiting at the end of a 181km trek from Brest.
Porte didn't rule the prospect of the GC men flexing their muscles on a finale otherwise suited to the classics specialists.
"I felt good today so hopefully we can do something," Porte said.
1. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL/BMC) 18hr 22min 00sec
2. Tejay Van Garderen (USA/BMC) at 2sec.
3. Philippe Gilbert (BEL/QST) 3.
4. Geraint Thomas (GBR/SKY) 5.
5. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA/QST) 6.
6. Bob Jungels (LUX/QST) 9.
7. Tom Dumoulin (NED/SUN) 13.
8. Soren Kragh Andersen (DEN/SUN) 13.
9. Rigoberto Uran (COL/EFD) 37.
10. Rafal Majka (POL/BOR) 52.
11. Jakob Diemer Fuglsang (DEN/AST) 53.
12. Richie Porte (AUS/BMC) 53.
13. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 55.
14. Mikel Landa (ESP/MOV) 55.
15. Christopher Froome (GBR/SKY) 57.
1. Peter Sagan (SVK/BOR) 180 pts 2. Fernando Gaviria (COL/QST) 147 3. Alexander Kristoff (NOR/EAU) 78 4. André Greipel (GER/LOT) 69 5. Arnaud Démare (FRA/FDJ) 57.
King of Mountains
1. Toms Skujins (LAT/TRE) 4 pts 2. Sylvain Chavanel (FRA/DEN) 4 3. Lilian Calmejane (FRA/DEN) 3 4. Dion Smith (NZL/WGG) 1 5. Kévin Ledanois (FRA/FST) 1 6. Anthony Perez (FRA/COF)
1. Etixx 55 h 45:20.
2. BMC at 23.
3. Giant 44.
4. Sky 1:54.
5. Mitchelton 3:27.