The fifth stage of the Tour de France led the peloton into the Massif Central, home region of Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) who's one of France's top overall contenders. The strong breakaway move ruled out a stage win for the 25-year-old rider, though he showed off his great form with an acceleration near the top of the Col du Perthus 15 kilometres from the finish. It briefly caused panic amongst some other contenders.
"It's not bad to test the favourites. I know the roads well so I tried. It was worth trying," Bardet said, while spinning down at the team bus in mountain resort Le Lioran.
Just before that he finished tenth in the sprint of the main group with overall contenders. After the finish line the climb continued and Bardet was pushed further up the road by a team soigneur with a herd of mostly French media chasing behind them. Bardet passed a very long row of team vehicles towards the AG2R team which was near the very end of the queue. Halfway, he stopped briefly to greet his father.
Once on the rollers Bardet took his time to talk with the French media. He regretted that the wasn't able to fight for the stage victory since the breakaway managed to go the distance but he realized that there was no reason for the general classification contenders to spend their energy this early in the race. "The guys in front were world class riders with Greg Van Avermaet and Thomas De Gendt. They're really strong fighters. It was hard to get back on them.
"In a race like the Tour de France it's no option to chase hard for 200 kilometres if there's more than two weeks of racing left. This wasn't a major mountains stage. It was a choice of the teams to let them go, unfortunately enough for us. It's a bike race and there's a lot of actors. I would have loved to have fought for the stage victory but that wasn't possible. We had to be cautious and we didn't come back."
While Van Avermaet climbed towards the victory the Movistar team was setting a fierce pace once the race reached the Pas de Peyrol. For many riders their pace was too fast, including Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) and eventually also Alberto Contador (Tinkoff). It was a battle amongst the teammates of the favourites. The leaders are very strong with Movistar and Sky. They kept the pace high and nobody fancied an attack on the climbs, except for Bardet's attack on the penultimate climb. When hearing Bardet, it's clear he really wanted to show the spectators that he was capable of doing something but that it was useless when thinking about the bigger picture.
"There were a huge number of fans along the course, I saw my name painted on the roads and people supporting me. I had goose bumps. I tried not to be carried away by the emotions. If you're racing for the general classification in the Tour de France one can't spend the energy that I hope to be saving for the Pyrenees and the Alps."
In the general classification Bardet is positioned in fourteenth place at 5:17 from new race leader Greg Van Avermaet, in the same time as fifth placed top favourite Chris Froome (Sky).
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