Thursday 20 July 2017

Van Avermaet flys solo as big guns keep powder dry

Belgium’s Greg van Avermaet celebrates as he wins stage five to take the yellow jersey at the Tour de France. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Belgium’s Greg van Avermaet celebrates as he wins stage five to take the yellow jersey at the Tour de France. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Tom Cary

Greg Van Avermaet soloed to victory and the yellow jersey on stage five of the Tour de France in Le Lioran as Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana kept their powder dry on the first foray into the mountains.

Froome and Quintana, this year's two Tour de France heavyweights, did no more than circle each other warily on the way to the ski station of Le Lioran in the Massif Central, declining the opportunity to throw any punches.

Their teams, Sky and Movistar, were content to allow a nine-man breakaway to escape up the road early on the route from Limoges, from which Classics specialist Van Avermaet (BMC) secured a majestic victory, claiming the yellow jersey for the first time in his career and the race lead by over five minutes.

Froome and Quintana did not mind. They were saving their legs for bigger things. Saturday's stage to Bagneres-de-Luchon via the iconic Col du Tourmalet for starters, not to mention Sunday's first summit finish of the race in Andorre Arcalis (2,240 metres). Those two days will now provide the first real opportunity to see where they are respective of each other.

The GC picture did become a little clearer yesterday, though, with Vincenzo Nibali's challenge now officially over, and Alberto Contador's hanging by a thread.

Nibali, the 2014 champion who won his second Giro d'Italia in May, lost more than 13 minutes to the yellow jersey as he ambled up the final two climbs, saying afterwards that it was "normal" as he was only in France to support his Astana team-mate Fabio Aru and to prepare himself for next month's Olympic road race.

Dan Martin finished fifth as he led home the group of GC contenders and jumps up to 10th place overall. Sam Bennett finished the stage over 28 minutes down as he continues to recover from the injuries sustained in his stage one crash. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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