Full live coverage of stage 5 of Paris-Nice, where the peloton will continue the journey south with a 199.5km stage across rolling terrain.
- Stage 4 report: Time trial victory propels Alaphilippe into race lead
- Stage 4 video highlights
- Alaphilippe: Paris-Nice is not finished and my rivals will attack
- Paris-Nice: Contador blown away by Alaphilippe
Good morning, and a warm welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage 5 of Paris-Nice. A last chance for the sprinters, this, so despite the rolling nature of the terrain there should be enough interest in bringing it back together for a bunch kick. In any case the undulations will sap the legs and should make for an open and exciting sprint.
We're in Beaujolais this morning - and the start area is duly located right next to a vineyard. The riders are preparing for the roll-out.
The riders are making their way through the 5km neutralised zone and then the race will be underway and we'll have the fight to get into the breakaway.
Here's a first shot of the riders starting out, courtesy of the race organiser. Quick-Step's Julian Alaphilippe wears the leader's yellow jersey after a storming performance in yesterday's time trial. It was the biggest result of his career, and he has the climbing potential to go on and win the race overall.
Lots of movement off the front of the peloton in these early kilometres.
Axel Domont (AG2R La Mondiale), Natnael Berhane (Dimension Data) and Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) skipped off the front, before Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie), Federico Zurlo (UAE Team Emirates) and Remy di Gregorio (Delko-Marseille) joined up.
That group has some 40 seconds over the bunch at the moment. Is the peloton happy enough to see this one go?
Yes, the break sticks. It's in the balance for the moment as the peloton keep the pace high, but they've since eased up and the six breakaway riders now have an advantage of two minutes and counting. They should be out front for most of the day.
The six riders in today's break
Axel Domont (AG2R La Mondiale)
Natnael Berhane (Dimension Data)
Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept)
Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie)
Federico Zurlo (UAE Team Emirates)
Remy di Gregorio (Delko-Marseille) joined up.
The gap rises above three minutes. None of these six riders are within half an hour of the race lead, so no stress for the peloton.
Quick-Step, as defenders of Alaphilippe's yellow jersey, will be called upon to take on the bulk of the pace setting in the bunch today, but they're also working for sprinter Marcel Kittel, who is yet to register a podium finish - not that the sprint stages here have been anything like straight forward.
The gap between the break and the bunch rises above four minutes, now, as Katusha-Alpecin make their presence felt. In Alexander Kristoff they have a prime pick for victory today.
Here's a first shot of our breakaway
More than six minutes, now, for the six riders out in front.
Axel Domont has a special interest in being in the spotlight today. The Frenchman is from Valence, a stone's throw from today's finish line in Bourg-de-Peage, and he used to ride for the local Velo Sprint Romanais Peageois club.
As this stage settles into a familiar pattern, why not catch up on yesterday's action, and relive that stunning display from Alaphilippe. Here's our stage report, complete with the full results and a photo gallery:
155km remaining from 199km
7 minutes now for the break with almost 45km covered.
The breakaway riders covered 38.5km in the first hour. That's pretty sluggish - and 1.5km/h slower than the slowest predicted time schedule. Even slower for the peloton, obviously, for whom the chaos and exertions of the opening two stages are probably still fresh in the memory.
LottoNL-Jumbo's Stef Clement abandoned the race in the opening phases of today's stage. The Dutchman became sick yesterday and thought he'd give it a go today, but it soon became apparent he wasn't fit to continue.
@Stefclement Thu, 9th Mar 2017 11:54:20
That means we're down to 165 riders, with 11 lost along the way in a variety of ways - we've had abandons through illness and injury, we've had a rider outside the time limit on the opening day, and we've even had a disqualification, with one of the pre-race favourites, Romain Bardet, chucked out of the race for holding onto his team car in a frantic chase on the first stage.
135km remaining from 199km
The riders make their way through the French countryside on their way past Lyon. FDJ show themselves at the head of the bunch. Their race has already been made after Arnaud Demare won the first stage and spent the next three days in the yellow jersey, but he wouldn't say no to another stage win.
Still well over 100km to go, but the peloton is already starting to tighten its grip on proceedings, and the gap falls below six minutes.
The breakaway riders are approaching Brindas for the first of two intermediate sprints today.
There were bizarre scenes yesterday over at Tirreno-Adriatico, the fellow WorldTour race that takes place at the same time as Paris-Nice (one of cycling's baffling idiosyncrasies), as Gianni Moscon's wheel disintegrated underneath him during the team time trial. In fact, three Sky riders sufered wheel failures in what was a disastrous outing.
Shimano make the wheels in question and they have launched an investigation. Josh Evans has the latest right here.
Back in France, Domont has just taken the intermediate sprint ahead of Calmejane and Perichon.
Meanwhile, the peloton continues its charge, coming across the sprint line just 4:20 in arrears.
110km remaining from 199km
The gap is down to 3:30 now, so the gap to the break has practically been halved in the space of 30 kilometres. Are we going to see a regrouping? And before the halfway mark?
There are two climbs on the route today - neither severe enough to put the sprinters in serious trouble but stiff enough to sap the legs.
The first one is coming up shortly, just before the half-way mark. It's the Côte de Givors, rated third-category, and it's 4.3km long with an average gradient of 4.2%.
Discord at Team Sky?
Aside from the racing, that's been the big story this week, after Cyclingnews revealed that some Sky riders had discussed asking team principal Dave Brailsford to resign, as the crisis stemming from the 'jiffy bag' incident continues to deepen. Yesterday it emerged that Chris Froome refused to sign a statement of support that management had urged all riders to sign in a bid to present a united front. There were also reports that Sky, the sponsor and owner, could pull out at the end of the year, though the team deny this and the chairman of the board has tweeted his support. Here are the latest stories:
The breakaway riders hit the Côte de Givors.
Zurlo is struggling on this climb and has lost contact
Calmejane wins the battle to the top, getting the better of Behane and Perichon.
Zurlo gets himself back on. It's quite deceiving because the KOM point doesn't actually mark the end of the climb. Instead the road continues to rise for a few more kilometres still.
The gap rises back up to five minutes as the peloton crests the climb.
Here's Remy Di Gregorio doing a turn in the break. The Frenchman is the only member of this group to have won a Paris-Nice stage - back in 2011 on what was was apparently his last appearance in a PN breakaway.
You may remember Di Gregorio's name from a certain drugs scandal a few years ago. He was arrested during the 2012 Tour de France on suspicion of possessing doping products, but after a lengthy court case he was cleared, and the Cofidis team had to pay significant damages, having dropped him almost instantly. Without a team, he rode just the Tour of Bulgaria in 2013 but, once cleared, the Delko Marseille team took him on and have kept him ever since.
Gentle downhill now for the riders. The gap hovers just below the four-minute mark.
Direct Energie have Calmejane in the break, but back in the bunch they have Bryan Coquard, who is certainly in with a shout if the expected bunch sprint does indeed materialise. The Paris-Nice media team grabbed a word with DS Jimmy Engoulvent on the team's tactics today.
"We don't have a lot of hope about the breakaway obviously even if there are a few bumps in the finale. There are six good riders who work well together, so who knows? But the goal remains all for Bryan. Lilan Calmejane has a little bit of freedom because he is not really part of the sprint set-up. It's good to let the other teams do the chasing work and there might be chances to take points for the KOM jersey, which can become a goal in the long term. In the finale, the set-up always changes a little bit but Adrien Petit looks the best placed to lead out for Bryan on such a finale."
80km remaining from 199km
3:30 is the gap, now, with a shade over 80km remaining. The average speed so far has crept up to 39.5km/h.
Direct Energie may be thinking about a sprint, but AG2R still have faith that this break can go all the way - no doubt buoyed by stage 3, when Pierre Latour was only caught with just over one kilometre remaining.
"We want to seize every little chance," said DS Stephane Goubert. "We have nothing to hope for in the overall standings anymore and we must be out there to seize every little opportunity we might get.
"Axel was one of the riders we designated for the break and being on home ground, he was especially motivated. Since he knows the course like the palm of his hand, he should be able to handle the finale better. The peloton are controlling the break but the escapees are pacing their efforts too. Pierre's break worked as a warning for the bunch and they're keeping the gap within limits. The wind always plays a part in the Rhone valley. The finale is rather hilly with the 2nd category hill. We would not send a guy in the breakaway if we didn't think he can make it."
Quick-Step press on with the chase
Have you listened to our Paris-Nice podcast?
We've been teaming up lately with Recon Ride, and you can find the Paris-Nice special right here.
66km remaining from 199km
Domont once again takes maximum points at the second intermediate sprint
There are three points and three bonus seconds on offer at the intermediate sprints - not that either are of much consequence to Domont. He's over half an hour down overall and these are his first points of the race, while Alaphilippe leads the classification on 29.
60km remaining from 199km
The gap is down to 3 minutes with 60km still to race.
The FDJ team have posted this photo from the finish line, where it's cloudy but not yet raining. "It's still not the Race to the Sun yet," they say, "but we're getting there."
@EquipeFDJ Thu, 9th Mar 2017 14:16:15
So, the riders are on the approach to the next stand-out feature on the race route. It's the second of two climbs and, while it's only 2.7km long, it packs a leg-sapping average gradient of 6.5%. It shouldn't be of too much concern to the sprinters, though, and is too far from the finish to have any real impact on the outcome.
Bradley Wiggins has come under fire in recent months after it was revealed he'd received injections of triamcinolone, a powerful corticosteroid, ahead of three Grand Tours. It was legal, with TUE's granted on each occasion, but controversial, and it has just been reported that WADA, the World Anti Doping Agency, are now considering a blanket ban on those kind of drugs.
The six breakaway riders hit the climb
2:12 is the gap as the peloton begin to head uphill.
Here comes the dash for the KOM points. Zurlo is dropped again, as Berhane and Perichon slug it out. It's Perichon who takes it.
There's no threat, though, to KOM leader Romain Hardy, who'll wear the polka-dot jersey again tomorrow.
Joe Dombrowski is off the back of the bunch here. The American is a featherweight climber, so this sort of terrain shouldn't trouble him in the slightest. He has struggled all week though, losing a stack of time on both the opening stages.
42km remaining from 199km
Lotto Soudal lead the bunch over the top of the climb, just over 2 minutes in arrears.
Perichon and Berhane didn't let up over the top of that climb, with a nice downhill run ensuing. Zurlo is well dropped and might not get back on now. Calmejane, in the excitement, overcooked a corner, and is now furiously trying to make it back up.
It's aggressive back in the bunch, too. Dombrowski wasn't the only rider in difficulty on that climb, and now Cofidis are pushing it hard on this downhill, with the bunch really strung out round these bends.
Lotto Soudal obviously have Andre Greipel for today, but they're also in with a shot of the overall, too, with Tony Gallopin looking impressive so far, and sitting in second place at just over 30 seconds. Here's our story from yesterday on the Frenchman.
Zurlo is reabsorbed into the peloton.
And now Calmejane is, too. He'll be kicking himself - just a lapse of concentration.
34km remaining from 199km
Katusha, FDJ, and Lotto Soudal sharing duties at the head of the bunch at the moment.
1:20 is the gap with 34km to go
The AG2R DS said there could be wind in this part of the course, and so it has proven. It's blowing from the side, and that's leaving the riders towards the back of the bunch in a spot of bother.
The gap is down to a minute now, with 27.5km remaining. Things calmed down in the peloton after that brief panic but the face is being ramped up now.
Puncture for Gallopin. He's back among the cars with a couple of teammates to help him back to the tail end of the bunch.
The four riders in the breakaway continue to work well together. The blackboard is shown to them and it still reads one minute. 23km to go, the odds stacked against them.
Davide Formolo is on the deck as the crosswinds begin to blow once again.
Nightmare for the Cannondale man. He's 16th overall, 2:18 down but with hopes of hauling himself back up in the hills.
Big splits in the bunch. Lots of riders caught out there with that change of direction, and the effect of the winds was sudden. Richie Porte has been distanced once again.
Alaphilippe misses the split
The race leader, along with Andre Greipel, finds himself in the second big group after that split. Can the group come back?
The groups come back together with 17km to go. And breathe...
The panic and the surge in pace means the breakaway's advantage is now very slim indeed. 20 seconds no, with just over 15 to go.
Di Gregorio looks behind and sees the rapidly advancing bunch. That's enough for him to wave goodbye to his companions and roll the dice with an attack.
Di Gregorio isn't making any inroads, and the others are going to come back up to him. The peloton is more bunched up now, and rolling along at a slightly more tranquil pace, happy to let these guys dangle out front for a few more minutes.
13km remaining from 199km
Di Gregorio pays for his efforts and is the first to be caught by the bunch.
12km remaining from 199km
That's it. Perichon, Domont, and Berhane are caught, as Katusha come to the front.
Tony Martin comes to the front and turns on the burners with five riders in tow. They have Kristoff for the sprint but also Zakarin for the overall, who needs keeping out of trouble.
Alaphilippe is well positioned, tucked in behind the Katusha train.
10km remaining from 199km
10 to go now as FDJ and Bora move up.
There are plenty of candidates for the sprint today. Bennett, Demare, and Colbrelli have all won, but Kittel, Greipel, Degenkolb, and Coquard haven't, and this is their last chance. Matthews could be a threat, too. Even McLay.
Who's your pick? Let me know via Twitter @paddyfletch
7km remaining from 199km
Sky set up shop on the left hand side of the road, just there to keep Sergio Henao out of trouble. Then, going across, it's Bora, FDJ, Katusha.
A 120-degree turn sees the wind direction change and the trains have to reorganise themselves. The battle for position will really start to intensify now.
5km remaining from 199km
Tony Martin peels off after a monster turn for Katusha. Direct Energie have three men in front of Coquard, while Bahrain-Merida are moving up now, full of confidence after Colbrelli's stage win.
@Leroispeed Thu, 9th Mar 2017 15:33:44
@Daburbs1989 Thu, 9th Mar 2017 15:32:51
@dljacobsen Thu, 9th Mar 2017 15:32:03
4km remaining from 199km
4km to go. Sky still drilling it up there.
And now a gap appears down the middle of the bunch, allowing Sunweb and LottoNL Jumbo to come to the fore on the left hand side. FDJ and Bahrain dominate the right.
3km remaining from 199km
And now it's getting feisty. The pace is intense now and some elbows fly out from the Lotto Soudal men, who realise they're not playing this one very well at all.
A series of roundabouts here, and there's a right way and a wrong way on each of them. Game over if you go the wrong way.
1km remaining from 199km
An Orica rider takes a shove at an FDJ rider as the battle for the front gets heated. Orica have Magnus Cort
This is messy now. No real trains as we approach the final km, but most sprinters still have one or two teammates.
1km remaining from 199km
The road dips down but it's going to kick up. Demare's FDJ lead.
Demare launches, but Groenewegen comes through
And now Greipel appears, and takes it!
Andre Greipel wins stage 5 of Paris-Nice
Great sprint from Greipel. The German took the wheel of Demare and surged through to take it by more than a bike length. Groenewegen ran Demare close, but it's the FDJ man has been awarded second place in the photo finish.
Matthews was fourth, followed by Degenkolb. Kittel finished well back.
1 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal 4:43:35
2 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ
3 Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
4 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb
5 John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
6 Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Orica-Scott
7 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Quick-Step Floors
8 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie
9 Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
10 Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe
Third win of the season for Greipel, a model of consistency, and his first at WorldTour level.
Julian Alaphilippe, despite a brief scare earlier on, keeps his leader's yellow jersey, with no time lost.
General classification after stage 5
1 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors 17:20:02
2 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal 0:00:33
3 Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:47
4 Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky 0:01:05
5 Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors 0:01:20
6 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors 0:01:24
7 Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin 0:01:28
8 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ 0:01:29
9 Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek-Segafredo 0:01:31
10 Rudy Molard (Fra) FDJ 0:01:32
"It's always nice to win stage in Paris-Nice - it's an important race with all the good sprinters. It was our goal to win a stage and be up there on GC with Gallopin, and for moment it looks quite good," says Greipel in his post-race interview.
"The last 7-8 kilometres were quite tricky with a block headwind - it wasn't easy to stay at the front and you had to do the right things at the right moments, and I was able to do so thanks to my team. In the end it was all the sprinters against each other, there were no real leadouts anymore with the block headwind. I waited as long as possible, and was able to do my sprint to the line. It was good timing and I'm really happy with it."
Here's our report page:
Over in Italy, Geraint Thomas has given Team Sky a much needed morale boost with a fine solo victory at Tirreno-Adriatico, forging clear in the punchy closing phases of a long stage.
Thomas' and Mikel Landa's GC hopes went out of the window yesterday when Sky suffered three wheel failures in the TTT, and then there's the ongoing controversy around the team and the doubt over the credibility of Dave Brailsford....so that victory will feel good. Here's our report.
Here's Greipel on the Paris-Nice podium
This is what awaits tomorrow...
And we'll be back tomorrow with full live coverage of that mouthwatering stage. We'll have full live coverage of the third stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, too.
In the meantime, keep an eye on Cyclingnews for all the news and reaction from both races. Thanks for your company today - see you again tomorrow!
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