Paris-Nice: Thomas holds on to lead


On a tough stage 5 of Paris-Nice which saw the race split in the mountains, Geraint Thomas finished 16th and kept hold of the Yellow jersey

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Paris-Nice: Thomas holds on to lead


Carlos Betancur avenged his AG2R team’s jinx in Rive-de-Gier to win stage 5 of Paris-Nice and emerge as one of the leading favourites in the final weekend of the Race to the Sun

The 24-year-old Colombian, crowned the best young rider in the last Giro d’Italia, attacked on the final descent, nine kilometres from the finish, to cross the line ahead of his two break companions, Luxembourg champion Bob Jungels (TFR) and Dane Jakob Fuglsang (AST).

ON GC, he now trails Geraint Thomas (SKY), who limited the damage in the finale, by five seconds in fourth place. The top three in the GC remaining unchanged on a short but eventful 153-kms ride from the Beaujolais vineyards.

“I’m glad to still be in the yellow jersey”. says Thomas. “The guys did a great job again but we couldn’t cover everybody. I saw there were Giant Shimano and Omega Quick Step guys with us and I banked on them to chase for a mass sprint and we nearly got it. In my mind, riders like Nibali or Betancur still remain the favorites, they have more GC experience than I do. Tomorrow will be a hard day with a 220k something stage and a steep hill finale. I hope to be there or thereabouts.”

Meanwhile, Carlos Bentacur has great ambitions in the race: “I was feeling good physically. I knew it was going to be a difficult stage with an interesting finale. I maybe attacked a little bit too early but I told myself I was feeling great and the others did not look so strong. Now it’s stupid that I lost a little bit of time in previous stages. I made amends with this stage win but I now have great ambitions in this Paris-Nice.”

Take five
The first attempt of the day was again launched by Thomas Voeckler (EUC) along with a Bretagne Seche rider, Florian Guillou (km 12). As the two were reeled in, the break of the day emerged at the initiative of Sylvain Chavanel (IAM), after some revenge on lady luck after losing time with a puncture in stage 4.

The Frenchman took with him Jan Bakelants (OPQ), Matthew Busche (TFR), Gorka Izaguirre (MOV) and Brice Feillu (BSE). The peloton let them go with the Team Sky of race leader Geraint Thomas maintaining a stable gap of two minutes with the break.

Chavanel takes consolation polka-dot
Knowing they were under close watch, Chavanel worked to pick points off for the Mountain classification while Bakelants, the best placed overall (20th, 19 seconds behind Thomas), collected seconds in the intermediate sprint in Brindas (km 87.5) and Rive de Gier (Km126.5).

On the Cote de St Martin-en-Haut, first stage winner Nacer Bouahnni (FDJ) bid farewell to the race. The polka-dot jersey did not seem consolation enough for Chavanel, who attacked on his own, 20 kilometres from the finish as the main pack, led by Team Sky, was catching his former breakaway companions.

‘Chava’ was also run down two kilometres later by Laurent Didier (TFR), who tackled the last ascent of the day on his own. Sylvain Chavanel  said afterwards “I didn’t expect to be in the break today because I was only one minute down and I thought I was too close to the leaders. But I was not the best placed in the group actually. As a result the bunch decided on our fate, never giving us more than two minutes lead. In spite of it, I felt good in the front. I now feel like exploding the race. That’s my only chance  because in any case it’s over for me overall.”

Betancur goes
At the top of the 2nd category Cote de Ste Catherine, Vinenzo Nibali (AST) attacked, followed by the main favourites, Betancur, Geraint Thomas, stage 4 winner Tom-Jelte Slagter (GRS) and Jakob Fuglsang (AST). On the descent, Betancur countered these moves and was quickly joined by Fuglsang and Jungels.

Over the last nine kilometers, the three managed to keep the peloton at bay and take the stage honours.

The stage is now set for the longest and potentially hardest stage of the week between St Saturnin-les-Avignon and Fayence (221.5 km).

1 BETANCUR Carlos AG2R La Mondiale 03:38:15
2 JUNGELS Bob Trek Factory Racing
3 FUGLSANG Jakob Astana Pro Team
4 COQUARD Bryan Team Europcar 00:02
5 BOONEN Tom Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
6 JANSE VAN RENSBURG Reinardt Team Giant-Shimano
7 GALLOPIN Tony Lotto Belisol
8 VAN AVERMAET Greg BMC Racing Team
9 BOZIC Borut Astana Pro Team
10 MARCATO Marco Cannondale

12 COSTA Rui Lampre – Merida
13 MATTHEWS Michael Orica GreenEDGE
16 THOMAS Geraint Team Sky
24 SLAGTER Tom-Jelte Garmin Sharp
29 STYBAR Zdenek Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
30 DEGENKOLB John Team Giant-Shimano
36 NIBALI Vincenzo Astana Pro Team
53 GERRANS Simon Orica GreenEDGE
58 TERPSTRA Niki Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
59 CHAVANEL Sylvain IAM Cycling
63 BOASSON HAGEN Edvald Team Sky 01:10
98 VOECKLER Thomas Team Europcar 7.30
110 SCHLECK Andy Trek Factory Racing
121 YATES Simon Orica GreenEDGE 12.00
142 ROWE Luke Team Sky 14.35
143 PHINNEY Taylor BMC Racing Team
144 GOSS Matthew Orica GreenEDGE
157 CUMMINGS Stephen BMC Racing Team

1 THOMAS Geraint Team Sky 21:52:42
2 DEGENKOLB John Team Giant-Shimano 00:03
3 SLAGTER Tom-Jelte Garmin Sharp 00:04
4 BETANCUR Carlos AG2R La Mondiale 00:05
5 ROJAS José Joaquin Movistar Team 00:08
6 FUGLSANG Jakob Astana Pro Team 00:13
7 BAKELANTS Jan Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
8 KELDERMAN Wilco Belkin-Pro Cycling Team 00:15
9 STYBAR Zdenek Omega Pharma – Quick-Step 00:19
10 GAUTIER Cyril Team Europcar
11 VICHOT Arthur
12 COSTA Rui Lampre – Merida



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