Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage from stage 5 of Paris-Nice.
Today the race is covering 193km from Saint-Symphorien-sur-Coise to Vernoux-en-Vivarais. It's one for the climbers or at least strongmen of the peloton with seven categorised climbs.
Cote des Ayats
Col de la Croix de Chaubouret
Cote de Saint-Jeure d’Ary
Col de Montreynaud
Cote de Vernoux en-Vivarais
Col de Comberon
Col de la Mure
42km remaining from 193km
The stage started roughly an hour ago the riders are on the lower slopes of the Col de la Croix de Chaubouret. We've had a few futile attacks so far but right now the bunch is together.
The Col de la Croix de Chaubouret is actually the longest climb in this year's race and I'm sure well see a few riders trying to escape the bunch and form a group. It's a shade under 10km long, not that steep, but the perfect launchpad for a move. A lot depends on which teams want to take the race by the scruff of the neck today but the stage has Vino written all over it.
The final climb, the Mûre, makes its debut in the race this year. It's 7,6km long, so may not shatter the entire field but it has sections that stretch to 12% gradient. There's a short decent to the finish, around 8-9km.
A bit of catch up from the action so far:
Kevin de Weert (Quick Step) has quit the race, continuing the Belgian team's awful luck in the race so far. Gerrans and Luis Leon Sanchez both hit the deck but have continued.
Right now, Pineau (Quick Step) is on the attack.
Paulinho from the Shack is the next man to jump ahead and there's a bit of a problem at the back for the sprinters who are being tossed out of the back. Peter Sagan is the latest casualty.
Here's a more defined list of today's climbs and their toughness:
Km 29.0 - Côte des Ayats - 1.7 km climb at 4.8 % - Category 3
Km 54.0 - Col de la Croix de Chaubouret (1201 m) - 9.8 km climb at 6.6 % - Category 1
Km 96.0 - Côte de Saint-Jeure-d'Ay - 1.9 km climb at 5.5 % - Category 3
Km 136.0 - Col de Montreynaud (760 m) - 7.4 km climb at 4.8 % - Category 2
Km 144.0 - Côte de Vernoux-en-Vivarais - 1.0 km climb at 5.5 % - Category 3
Km 151.0 - Col de Comberon - 4.4 km climb at 4.4 % - Category 3
Km 184.0 - Col de la Mûre (765 m) - 7.6 km climb at 8.3 % - Category 1
The Shack rider has been brought back by the bunch but we've not got Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil) out in front on his own. They're having a great race, aren't they?
While we wait for him to either sit up or find a few friends to carry on attacking with, lets have a scan of today's news.
Well, James Huang, our tech tzar is at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show and here's his latest offering of tech news and photos.
Some bad news for Omega as Greipel has been forced to quit Tirreno. The German crashed in the warm up at the TTT and has pulled out before today's stage. Not a great start in his debut season for the Belgian team. At this point last year he'd won around 5-7 races. He's won only one so far in 2011. And missing Tirreno will surely have an affect on his Milan-San Remo prep.
In other news the MPCC have called for longer bans for doping violations and Boonen has the flu. Those two gems of news are of course totally unrelated.
53km remaining from 193km
Back to the action and there was a small counter attack from the bunch but it's been drawn back in. Westra leads by around 45 seconds.
I guess the biggest question today is how are De Gendt's climbing legs. Can he hang on to the leader's jersey after all the energy he used up in yesterday's blisteringly impressive ride? Tell us what you think, ping me a tweet at http://twitter.com/dnlbenson. And feel free to choose your top three for the stage. No prizes for this one, just the admiration and envy from all your friends and family. You can't put a price on that, you just can't. I've tried!
54km remaining from 193km
Westra crested the top of the climb on his own but I think we know the answer to my previous question as de Gendt is distanced by the main peloton. That's not a great sign for the rest of the day. Right, who will end the day in the leader's jersey?
Results from the climb are as follows:
1. Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil) 10 pts
2. Hubert Dupont (AG2R) 8 pts 35 seconds behind
3. Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ) 6 pts
4. David Lopez Garcia (Movistar) 4 pts
5. Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin-Cervelo) 3 pts all same time
6. Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) 2 pts 1:00 behind
7. Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel) 1 pt. same time
The bunch 1:05 behind.
Behind Westra we have a chase group of four. Le Mevel (Garmin), Dupont (AG2R), Jeannesson (FDJ) and Lopez-Garcia (Movistar). Le Mevel's move is an interesting one. It suggest that's he's not the overall leader for the team in this race. Last week Ryder Hesjedal suggested that the Frenchman would lead the team here.
72km remaining from 193km
A bit of re-grouping as the leaders all merge. So we now have Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil), Hubert Dupont (AG2R), Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ), David Lopez Garcia (Movistar), Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin-Cervelo) and Romain Hardy (Bretagne-Schuller).
Peloton @ 1.35
This lead group have got their act together now and have a nearly four minutes on the bunch.
Via twitter a few of you are picking Vino for both the stage and the leader's jersey. Could well happen.
farizkyrahman says @dnlbenson Sammy Sanchez,Vino, Luis Leon Sanchez or Hesjedal. maybe the likes of Casar or Fedrigo. should be on the mix in the final kms
111km remaining from 193km
dimspace asks @dnlbenson why on the cyclingnews live report are the riders getting further and further away from the finish? ;)
Well Dim, that's because I've been making a mess of the distances. Should be fixed now.
The gaps has come down by just over a minute but the leaders are just about to hit the feed, which should be a perfect opportunity to increase their lead.
Good shouts on the major contenders for today. It will be interesting to see how Wiggins goes. He's come into the race saying he wants to perform well and tomorrow's TT will give him an opportunity to shine but if he wants to challenge on GC he's going to have to climb well today.
michielveedeeb says @dnlbenson I'm hoping for Jurgen VDB's first pro-victory!
Westra is doing a fine job for his team at the moment, driving the break along and meaning his teammates don't have to do any work back in the bunch. The Dutchman is in pretty good form at the moment, having finished third overall at the Tour of Algarve. Without a pro win since 2009 but he's earning his pay today.
Jeannesson meanwhile hasn't won a race since 2008. He's had a busy few months though, signing from Caisse in the winter and finishing third in the French cross nationals.
Yoann Offredo, an FDJ teammate, has just called it quits. Injured a fall earlier this week he's climbed off his bike and into a team car. He's off.
The leaders are now on the Cote de Saint-Jeure d’Ary but their gap is down to a little over a minute. Meanwhile the bunch have come back together, at last.
95km remaining from 193km
The six leaders have stretched their advantage back out on the descent and the gap is an even two minutes. We're just over halfway through today's stage.
TRDean1has tweeted in asking about Pavel Brutt who grovelled in yesterday, losing over 16 minutes. Not sure, I'm afraid, but we'll try and find out at the finish..
Perhaps he was thinking about his hobbies. He's a man of many layers is old Pavel, as you read on his biog page on the team's website.
Have a guess at what Di Luca's hobbies are. You'll never guess.
Rolling terrain for the next 20km or so before the riders will start the next climb, the Col de Montreynaud. Three climbs in fairly quick succession at that point.
Back to Di Luca's page on the Katusha website, I can only assume that 'playing battery' is 'playing the drums'.
We've not talked about Riche Porte yet. The young Aussie could be another rider to watch both today and in the time trial tomorrow. Potentially he could do very well indeed in a race like this.
We've got a guest in the CN blimp. It's Sarah Duester from Nederland Bloeit who is fresh from the team's recent team presentation. Sarah raced Omploop a couple of weeks ago but took a tumble early on and had to pull out.
DB: Hows the shoulder?
SD: it's getting better but I crashed really badly in Omloop. I am looking forward to the next races. I started off in Qatar earlier this year. I got a 6th place on one stage but really it's a race for the sprinters.
DB: So what races are we going to see you at next?
SD: I'll do all the Classics and my shoulder is healing so I'll be okay for them. There's still a little bit of pain but it just needs a bit more time.
DB: And you had your team presentation in the last few days?
SD: Yes, it was fantastic. Last week we were in Spain for trainingscamp and yesterday we had team präsentation. It was a really important event for us. Now I just have to show that I have good form but I hope when the classics come around.
DB: Thanks for joining us, Sarah.
73km remaining from 193km
Back the action and the men aren't far off the lower slopes of the Col de Montreynaud. The gap is now 1.30.
Absolute gold from DavidMcCormack who says @dnlbenson Yep, I found some YouTube footage of Di Luca playing drums with his 'killer' face on: http://youtu.be/Y8aGlOj2VFo
67km remaining from 193km
The Col de Montreynaud (760 m) is 7.4 km long at an average gradient of 4.8 %. It's Cat2 but unlikely to decide much today. We'll see which teams and riders are taking the GC seriously though as they try and move to the front. The gap between the leaders and the bunch is 1.45. It was four minutes at one point.
5km to go for the leaders on the climb but we've had a reaction from behind a rider has jumped clear from the peloton.
It's Pineau chasing while Sagan, who fought back to the bunch earlier, has been dropped again.
The leaders have split as they close in on the summit and Westra, Lopez-Garcia and Dupont are clear. Game over for the others.
59km remaining from 193km
11 riders are now trailing the three men at the front of the race. They're a mixture of dropped riders and attacking riders from the peloton.
Now things are hotting up. Behind the three leaders we have Le Mevel, De Greef, Casar, Fedrigo, Jeanneson, Voigt, Kessiakoff, Garate, Svitsov, Kadri and Jerome Pineau. Voigt is well placed on GC.
Astana have a man up there too.
Svitsov's appearance shouldn't be taken lightly either. On his day he can climb with the best in the world - descending skills less good, however.
The three leaders have a gap of 22 seconds on the group of 11 behind them. Saxo Bank and Shack may need to take up the chase.
Two Cat3 climbs in quick succession before the final tough climb of the day. Still all to play for in terms of the stage and the leader's jersey.
49km remaining from 193km
That very dangerous looking group has been brought back by the bunch, so we just have our three men out in the lead and gap of around 17 seconds.
All over for Garcia, he's dropped. So now Westra and Dupont are leading affairs.
Dupont and Westra are putting the hammer down now, and their gap goes out to 40 seconds.
The leading duo move onto the Col de Comberon before the long decent and the final climb of the day. They've got a gap of 38 seconds.
Riders being shelled out the back in big numbers now as FDJ set about making the pace at the front of the bunch.
Westra is starting to distance Dupont now. He's got a gap of around 100 meters.
The Dutchman looks back briefly but then sets about driving onwards. The peloton are down to around 60-70 riders now.
38km remaining from 193km
FDJ are leading the bunch still.
Lampre are also moving forward now, sitting just behind FDJ who you'd presume are working for Casar.
Of course they'll be working to secure the mountains jersey for Pauriol too.
This final decent will be tricky and very technical.
36km remaining from 193km
The gap is down to just 20 seconds now.
Dupont looks like he's coming back to Westra though.
The two men at the front join up again.
Game over though for the two men. The peloton are less than a handful of seconds back.
FDJ still leading, must be for Casar.
Gendt, Goss, and Haussler are all still in the bunch. Can the yellow jersey hang on, on the final climb? He's in the form of his life but can he climb once the big guns fire?
A bit of a split now and FDJ are causing big problems. They're setting such a fast pace on the decent that they've distanced the rest of the field. Maybe 5 or six riders have come with them.
Devolder right at the back of the bunch but now FDJ have caused so much damage they've dropped everyone. Three FDJ riders and then a gap of a couple of seconds.
So 4 FDJ riders, a couple of Lampre riders. Casar, Roy, Fredgrigo, Voeckler all there. Roy did all the damage. Incredible ride from FDJ and they've got 32 seconds.
De Gendt right at the back of the peloton and having a drink, calling for his team car.
Vichot another FDJ rider has crashed and is out of the race.
23km remaining from 193km
Pierrick Fedrigo (FDJ), Sandy Casar (FDJ), Cédric Pineau (FDJ), Jérémy Roy (FDJ), Yuriy Trofimov (Katusha Team), Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar), Simon Spilak (Lampre - ISD)
Peloton at 0:35
Lotto drilling it on the front now most likely for Van den Broeck.
22km remaining from 193km
The gap is creeping up to 40 seconds now as the bunch ease off slightly.
Voigt on the front now, de Gendt still at the back but he'll want to move closer to the front before the climb starts.
Voeckler happy for FDJ to set the pace, and just sits at the back of the lead group. The gap is coming down now though, it's at 20 seconds.
De Gendt back with the team car again.
20km remaining from 193km
20km to go!
Between 30 and 40 riders left in the bunch and all the main favourites are present.
De Gendt makes contact and is working his way back to the front of the bunch. Haussler is also present.
16km remaining from 193km
Shack on the front now and taking up the charge. Brajkovic, Kloden and Leipheimer could all factor in today's race. The FDJ attack has been caught.
And the final climb starts.
Goss is dropped and Liquigas set the pace. Van den Broeck moves to the front.
Very steep section and Martin is up there for HTC.
15km remaining from 193km
De Gendt pops too!
Vino on the front and setting the pace, a teammate behind him, Porte there too. Wiggins maybe as well and Van den broeck.
Martin looks behind him but it looks like he's alone, cant see any of his teammates.
The mountains jersey leader is dropped now too. Maybe 25 riders left in this lead group as Astana set the pace. Kreuziger and Rogers are up there too. Vino has been dropped.
Astana are backing Kreuziger and not Vino today, clearly.
Kreuziger attacks and Martin his leading the chase back up to his wheel.
Kreuziger has four riders with him, Martin right on his wheel but it looks like it's coming back together.
13km remaining from 193km
Roche dropped as Leukemans attacks.
Carrara is leading, apologies and he's been joined by Kreuziger. Van Garderen is setting the pace for Martin.
Martin needs to keep those two leaders in check. They're Carrara and Kiserlovski.
The gap is perhaps just 40 meters and it looks like it might all come back together. HTC doing a good job of bringing things back together. Van Garderen doing all the work on the front.
No reaction from the favourites just yet. Wiggins near the back of the favourites, Schleck too.
10km remaining from 193km
The gap stretching out to around 11 seconds as the two men up front work well together. They've still got the 9km decent to come.
Chavanel dropped just before the top of the climb. He may make it back on he decent.
Van Garderen moves out of the saddle and lifts the pace again. He has the leaders strung out all over the road. Leipheimer and Tondo are in this group.
Voeckler still in the group too. He could be the next leader overall.
9km remaining from 193km
Taaramae who was hanging on at the back earlier has attacked and Tondo goes with him.
Now Voeckler is in trouble as the bunch split. Schleck makes a move too.
Looks like two Shack riders are trying to counter. Martin might also be attacking too. Taaramae has lead everyone back up to the two leaders and we've got a group of around 8 riders forming at the front.
Samuel Sanchez is there too. That's a big danger because he can really decent at speed. Taaramae leads still. Martin on his wheel as they start the decent.
The stage winner will come from this group, surely.
7km remaining from 193km
Tondo is hanging on at the back. Sanchez is waiting in the middle of this group. Sky are leading the chase behind.
4km remaining from 193km
Wiggins was leading the chase with Luis Leon on his wheel.
Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad), Xavier Tondo Volpini (Movistar Team), Robert Kiserlovski (Pro Team Astana), Janez Brajkovic (Team RadioShack), Andreas Klöden (Team RadioShack), Matteo Carrara (Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team), Rein Taaramae (Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne) and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
Two Shack riders so they need to push things on. Schleck has a teammate with him too but hasn't made him work yet.
The gap is 10 seconds. Uran is chasing for Wiggins, Mollema in the chase group too with Hesjdal.
The gap is now 24 seconds. Sanchez still at the back of the lead group.
Schleck finally commits and puts his teammate on the front to help Sky.
Martin does a big turn on the front and Tondo comes through.
The gap comes down to 16 seconds now.
Sanchez still just sitting in, not coming through to do any work.
1km remaining from 193km
1km to go
Martin setting the pace
The German trying to get every second out of the group behind as Shack take up the charge.
Kloden takes it!
The German led out, Sanchez as you would expect tries to take him on the outside but the German held on. Carrara takes third.
The Spaniard seemed to look down at his gears with around 150 meters to go but he didnt have enough in tank.
Porte just crosses the link 1.36 down.
Luis Leon Sanchez led home the next group 18 seconds after Kloden took the win.
Along with the stage Kloden also takes the yellow jersey and now leads the race and Sanchez by 4 seconds.
So it's advantage Martin, Kloden, Sanchez and Brajkovic ahead of tomorrow's crucial time trial. Tune in tomorrow for all the action.
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