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Paris - Nice 2017: Stage 5

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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. 

 

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.

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

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

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.

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

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.

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

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. 

Discord at Team Sky?

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.

80km remaining from 199km

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. 

Quick-Step press on with the chase

Have you listened to our Paris-Nice podcast?

66km remaining from 199km

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 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."

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.

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

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

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.

Crash

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

12km remaining from 199km

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

Predictions please

7km remaining from 199km

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

4km remaining from 199km

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

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

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.

Top 10

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

"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.

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. 

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. 

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