Following the two initial stage wins by Gert Steegmans, Carlos Barredo has added one more to Quick Step's tally in Sisteron. It's a well deserved win since the Spaniard was the most active rider in the 17-man breakaway that contested the stage. He did most of the work and attacked three times before coming to the line alone. He also moved into the top ten overall between his team-mates Juan Manuel Garate and Alexander Efimkin.
This situation might give the Belgian team some ideas for the last two stages because there are more hills to come and the Rabobank team is suffering to protect its race leader, Robert Gesink. Super domestique Mathew Hayman was forced to pull out because of muscular problems following a crash earlier in the week, and after the first climb, Gesink was left with only four team-mates only who rode to their limits to keep the breakaway in check.
"My first day in yellow was a nice one," the young Dutchman explained. "But it hurt a lot! The pace was high all the time. We didn't expect it would be so high. This group away wasn't the ideal scenario for us. I've been worried but luckily it went well at the end."
The breakaway lost a few big names on its way. The main one was Cadel Evans who hadn't had enough with a prestigious win up the Mont Ventoux. As there was no serenity in the lead group but a lot of attacks, the Australian lost contact with a few others who weren't actually desired up there because their presence in the front gave birth to a harder chase. "It was stupid because the final climb gave an opportunity to do something again," Evans complained. He was obviously not happy with himself, although he showed once again that he's got great condition for the time being.
On the finishing line in Sisteron, Rabobank reduced the gap to 2'15" and there weren't many changes on GC, Barredo's move being the main one. "Initially I wasn't happy to hear that Rabobank was working so hard," the Spaniard commented. "I've worked a lot for both a stage win and the GC. When I saw that the gap would be around two minutes at the end, I decided to play the win before anything else. I was probably the strongest of the break. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of days."
How it unfolded
The previous stages' crashes and bad weather hit the peloton with a big batch of abandons on stage five. David Millar (Slipstream), William Bonnet (Crédit Agricole) and Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) did not start. Bradley McGee (CSC) abandoned after 15 kilometers. He was followed by 13 colleagues, among which Mathew Haymand (Rabobank), Rémy Di Gregorio (Française des Jeux), Mario Aerts and Johan Vansummeren (Silence-Lotto), Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis) and former white jersey Andriy Grivko (Milram).
Skil-Shimano made sure nobody would escape before the first climb of the day, the col de Mûrs (km 30.5) where polka dot jersey Clément Lhôtellerie crossed the line first and secured crucial points for the mountains competition. Right after that climb, four French riders broke clear: Christophe Moreau (Agritubel), Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Telecom), Rémi Pauriol (Crédit Agricole) and Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux) who lost contact and was replaced by his team-mate Philippe Gilbert who had jumped away from the bunch.
Gilbert won the hot spot sprint at Saint-Saturnin-les-Apt (km 54) and a group of 21 riders including the Mont Ventoux stage winner Cadel Evans bridged the gap. Rabobank chased straight away and asked Juan Antonio Flecha to drop out from the breakaway and help in front of the bunch. Evans, Gilbert and Pineau eventually did the same and went back to the main pack.
17 riders stayed away: David Arroyo and Mathieu Perget (Caisse d'Epargne), Karsten Kroon (CSC), Ivan Santaromita (Liquigas), Alexandre Botcharov, Simon Gerrans and Pierre Rolland (Crédit Agricole), Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux), Manuele Mori and Aurélien Passeron (Saunier Duval), Stef Clement (Bouygues Telecom), Maxime Monfort (Cofidis), José Luis Arrieta (Ag2r), Carlos Barredo (Quick Step), Christophe Moreau, Eduardo Gonzalo and Geoffroy Lequatre (Agritubel).
Among them, Barredo was the highest ranked rider on GC, just 4'03 behind Robert Gesink, which didn't give Rabobank much of a rest. The Dutch team kept the gap under 3 minutes while Clement crashed in the front group and pulled out.
Barredo attacked before the final climb, the côte des Marquises whose summit was at km 160. He was joined by Moreau, Mori, Rolland and Kroon. Barredo attacked twice more to break clear by himself with 10 kilometers to go. He kept four seconds lead on the line but didn't threat Gesink's yellow jersey.