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Tour de France 2017: Stage 5


In the middle of it all the arguments, a bike race may well break out, but at the start of stage 5 in Vittel, only one story dominates - Peter Sagan's expulsion from the Tour de France after his manoeuvre in the finishing straight of stage 4 brought down Mark Cavendish, an incident which saw the Manxman himself forced out of the race by injury.

There were breathless reports this morning that Peter Sagan's bike had been strapped to the roof of a Bora-Hansgrohe team car as if he was intending to defy the commissaires and try to take the start. The news brought back memories of rumours that Festina would take the start of the Correze time trial in the wake of their expulsion at the 1998 Tour. Instead, not altogether unlike Virenque in the back room of Chez Gillou - though minus the tears - Sagan made a short statement to the press outside the Bora-Hansgrohe hotel, where he confirmed that he would abide by the decision of the race jury, even if he didn't agree with it. His Tour is over, and his streak of consecutive green jerseys stops at five.

"What can I do? I can just accept the decision of the jury, but for sure I don’t agree with them because I think I didn’t do something wrong in the sprint," Sagan said. "What is bad is that Mark fell down and it’s important that he can recover well. I’m sorry for that. As you see can see on the internet, it was a crazy sprint. It is not the first one like that and won’t be the last one like that. So I wish to Mark to recover well and that’s it.” Stephen Farrand has the full story here.

Some shop-keeping before we delve further into the reams of Sagan analysis and reaction that have emerged overnight. Today's stage rolls out from Vittel at 13.10 local time, with the bunch due to reach kilometre zero for the official start at 13.20. There are two categorised climbs, the category 3 Cote d'Esmoulieres (2.3km at 8%)and the category 1 haul to the finish at La Planche des Belles Filles (5.9km at 8.5%), The first of three summit finishes at this year's Tour, it ought not to prove decisive but it could give us some very firm indications as to who will win this race in two-and-a-half weeks' time. On each of the Tour's previous visits, the man in yellow at the summit has carried the jersey all the way to Paris. Sky dominated in 2012, with Chris Froome winning the stage and Bradley Wiggins moving into yellow. In 2014, Vincenzo Nibali soloed to victory to move back into yellow, while Thibaut Pinot's second place augured well for his eventual podium finish in Paris. 

General classification ahead of stage 5:


Under normal circumstances, Mark Cavendish's abandon would be the news story this morning. The Manxman suffered a fracture to his right scapula, and while no surgery is required, he has, understandably, been forced to quit the race. "I'm obviously massively disappointed to get this news about the fracture," Cavendish said. "The team was incredible today. They executed to perfection what we wanted to do this morning. I feel I was in a good position to win, and to lose that and even having to leave the Tour, the race I've built my career around, is really sad." You can read the full story here.

Emotions were oscillating by the minute around the Dimension Data bus after the stage yesterday, but the coolest head seemed to belong to Cavendish himself, who was careful when he spoke to the press before undergoing the scans that would confirm his Tour was over. "I get on with Peter well but I don't get it... if he came across it's one thing, but the elbow... I'm not a fan of him putting his elbow in like that. I get on with Peter, a crash is a crash, but I'd just like to know about the elbow," Cavendish said, and you can read the full story here.

A quick perusal of Twitter suggests that there must literally be thousands of people out there who have participated in bunch sprints at the Tour de France at 70kph, and, what's more, they are all so generous as to offer their opinions in the most constructive and least strident manner possible. To spare you scrolling through them all, however, we've collated the thoughts of a selection of (actual) former Tour riders, who, for the most part, seem to think Sagan's disqualification was harsh in the extreme. You can read the full story here.

At least two former sprinters disagree with the consensus of their erstwhile colleagues, however: Tom Steels and Frederic Moncassin. Steels was, of course, ejected from the 1997 Tour for throwing a bidon at Moncassin during the infamous Marennes bunch sprint, where Erik Zabel was first across the line but declassified for an irregular sprint. Jeroen Blijlevens was awarded the win, but the headlines were all for Steels. Suffice to say, then, that the Quick-Step directeur sportif knows of which he speaks.... 

“Sagan’s arm movement is beyond the limit,” Steels told L’Equipe. “Sprinters are already in contact enough. We can’t accept these outbursts, it’s too dangerous. I was excluded in 1997 myself during my first Tour when I threw my bidon at a rider who shut me in. I was ashamed of it, but it served as a lesson to me.” 

Steels' old sparring partner Moncassin was in firm agreement. "The images speak for themselves," he said. "There shouldn’t even be a discussion, the exclusion is deserved. I don’t think it would be as debated as much if Nacer Bouhanni had committed the infraction. Sagan is the world champion but he has to respect the rules." Alessandro Petacchi, meanwhile, the gentleman sprinter, told L'Equipe that Sagan was hard done by, and pointed out that one A. Demare had veered across the road and almost taken out Bouhanni en route to victory. Petacchi was, as you might expect, not the the only man to spot what the commissaires apparently did not....

Arnaud Demare swept across the road in the final 150 metres and his change in trajectory ruined the sprint of his old foe Bouhanni. “It was a nervous sprint. I was in the ideal position in the final kilometres and I knew the finish by heart. But at 150 metres from the line, as I was on the wheel of Alexander Kristoff, Arnaud Demare cut me up and I touched his back wheel,” Bouhanni said. “At that moment it was over. If I didn’t brake, I’d have fallen.” You can read the full story here.

Mark Cavendish has spoken at the Dimension Data team bus ahead of the start in Vittel. Of Sagan's flick of the elbow, he says, "It doesn't look good," and adds that his lead-out man Mark Renshaw was ejected from the Tour for less in 2010. "Mark Renshaw got relegated [sic] for a headbutt when nobody crashed," Cavendish says. "I don’t hold anything against Peter. We have a good relationship. It’s just sad we’re both out of the Tour de France." 


It's worth noting that the decision of the commissaires to exclude Sagan is based solely on his actions in the finishing straight, but as Greg LeMond has pointed out in Eurosport, one wonders whether Sagan's part in the crash on the run-in to the finish - where he seemed to barge between two riders - might have influenced the final verdict.

Chris Froome (Sky), meanwhile, has spoken to France Televisions on the incident just before the start. “It’s a very difficult decision for the commissaires, but at the end of the day it’s they who decide. For the race it’s a blow, losing Peter Sagan and also Mark Cavendish, but the race goes on," Froome said. “We have the maillot jaune in the team, so we can play off that a little – it’s for the others to attack today, not us.”

The peloton has assembled on the start line in Vittel, incidentally, and is about to begin navigating the neutralised zone before the official start.

As the peloton soft pedals out of Vittel, why not read Dan Benson's preview of today's stage to La Planche des Belles Filles, where, if history is a guide, Team Sky will look to lay down a marker. 

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Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) is immediately on the offensive. He is joined in this early move by Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step) and Jan Bakelants (Ag2r La Mondiale), but the peloton doesn't seem content to let them go.

A group of seven riders has a small lead over the peloton. Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) sets the pace on the front, with Voeckler, Gilbert and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) also aboard.

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Tsgabu Grmay (Bahrain-Merida) nudges past the phalanx of Sky riders at the head of the bunch and he accelerates in lone pursuit of the escapees. Luke Rowe waves a hand to tell his teammates not to bother chasing. The race has settled very early.

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Brecht Decaluwe tells us that Sporza talked with UCI's president of the jury, Philippe Mariën, shortly after the announcement of Sagan's was made last nigt. "In certain situations the race jury can increase the punishment. This seemed like a just moment to do so," he said, describing Sagan's move as "very severe."

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Tsgabu Grmay is locked in conversation with his Bahrain-Merida team car, and it seems they have decided that the Ethiopian's attempt to bridge across is a futile one.

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BMC have joined Sky in keeping tabs on affairs at the had of the peloton, and the break's lead has stabilised at around the 3:30 mark. There is a lot of firepower and some decent climbing talent in this move, and the teams with designs on stage victory will be reluctant to let them disappear too far up the road.

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The Sagan story is the biggest of the week so far, but the most important is Pierre Carrey's interview with Pierre-Henri Lecuisinier in Liberation on Monday. Lecuisinier, you may recall, was junior world champion in Copenhagen in 2011 and winner of the prestigious Ronde de l'Isarde in 2012. He turned professional with FDJ in 2014 after a tug of love between Marc Madiot and Jean-Rene Bernaudeau. Last year, he agreed to wear a hidden camera as part of France 2's investigation into the activities of Bernard Sainz, better-known by his nickname of Dr Mabuse. Lecuisinier found himself without a team at the end of 2016. He started 2017 in the amateur ranks, but has since left cycling altogether. And still people wonder why whistleblowers are so thin on the ground in professional sport...

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Another man with the pedigree to shine on La Planche des Belles Filles is Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors), though he was cautious due to the gentle approach to the final climb. “I’m unsure. I’m normally better when there are three or four climbs in a day,” he explained. “A one-off explosive effort, even with my traits, I’m normally good at an explosive effort, but it’s normally after 260 kilometres at Liege so that one-off climb is a bit unknown. But, we will see, we’ll do our best and if I can be there in the finish then it suits me for the sprint.” Sadhbh O'Shea has the full story here.

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Fabio Aru (Astana) begins the day 52 seconds down in 25th place overall, but the Sardinian will expect to have scaled the rankings by the top of La Planche des Belles Filles. It's been a curious season for Aru, who abandoned Tirreno-Adriatico in mid-March and didn't race again until the Dauphine in June after sustaining the knee injury that kept him out of the Giro d'Italia. Aru had, however, begun his season very well with a fine second place at Green Mountain at the Tour of Oman, and his form in recent weeks suggests he can be a factor in this Tour despite his disappointing debut of a year ago. Today's climb could well suit Aru. "It’s going to be an important test, we’ll have to be ready," Aru told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I haven’t tried the climb but I’ve seen it on a few different videos and it’s been explained to me well."

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When Voeckler, Gilbert and company slipped clear so readily in the opening kilometre, they might have expected to continue adding to their advantage deep into the final 100 kilometres, but BMC's very brisk pace-making has keep them a tight rein on them. Although the terrain is not obviously difficult in the opening half of the stage, the roads in this area of France are heavy, and deceptive false flats abound. The road will seem all the heavier under the weight of BMC's sustained pressing.

All local eyes this afternoon will be on Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), who hails from nearby Melisey, where his father Regis is the mayor. Pinot, still feeling the effects of his fine 4th overall at the Giro d'Italia, has come to this Tour targeting stage wins rather than the overall, and he deliberately coughed up three minutes on Monday with that in mind. Before the Tour began, however, he suggested La Planche des Belles Filles - a climb he scales "ten times a year" in training - comes a shade too early in the race, as he eases back into action after the Giro. "It comes a bit too early after the Giro to hunt the stage win, I think. I rested a lot and trained, but most of all resting. I'm feeling average. I lack training and rhythm," Pinot said. "Maybe after a week of racing, I'll go better. The stage on Sunday [stage 9] is monstrous. It's the first real rendezvous, and a breakaway really stands a chance."

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The bunch's passage through the feed zone arrested their progress slightly and the gap has nudged back north of two minutes. The speed is still high, however, with the peloton strung out into a long line. The road grows more arduous as the day progresses, and this pace should take its toll.

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The eight escapees are sticking gamely to their task at the head of the race, but even at this early juncture, they must know they are fighting a losing battle. The gap lingers around the two-minute mark as BMC maintain their rhythm at the head of the peloton.

The always excellent Marina Hyde has written a most incisive column in the Guardian on Dave Brailsford's rather confident response to the complaints of rival teams over Team Sky's skinsuits in the opening time trial: "The problem with Dave’s relentlessly 'business as usual' approach is we all know rather more about how he does business than we did last year. So incomplete and incompetent has the response been, even before parliament, that for many it is now utterly impossible to utter the phrase 'marginal gains' without reflexively adding sarcastic air quotes." You can read the full piece here.

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Michael Matthews (Sunweb) beats Kittel, Kristoff and the green jersey Demare to 9th place. In Sagan's absence, the Australian is perhaps the favourite for the points classification, at least based on his ability to pick up points in the parts of the race the other sprinters simply cannot reach.

The injection of urgency in the peloton for that sprint has seen the break's lead drop a little more, to 1:40.

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Thomas De Gendt is the next man to be distanced under the weight of Voeckler's forcing. Six riders remain in front.

Bakelants attacks from the break with 500 metres of the climb remaining, and he opens a small gap. Voeckler was leading the chase initially, but he has swung over to look for help.

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BMC still lead on the climb, and while their speed has hardly been hyperactive on the ascent, a number of riders, including Andre Greipel and Olivier Le Gac, are in difficulty at the rear of the peloton.

Delage is swept up by the bunch near the summit. The break's deficit has stretched out to 2:50, proof that there was a drop in intensity on the ascent.

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The average speed has been a very brisk 44.88kph thus far, while temperatures have been touching 35 degrees Celsius for much of the afternoon. Small wonder that when Thomas Voeckler takes bidon from his team car, he immediately unscrews the cap and dumps the contents over his head. 

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France Televisions reports that the heat this afternoon is such that the commissaires will allow bottles to be passed up to riders until the final 12.5 kilometres. 

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A reminder, too, that Peter Sagan is no longer in the Tour de France after his part in yesterday's finishing straight crash that brought down Ben Swift and John Degenkolb, and ended Mark Cavendish's race. "If I'm honest it takes a lot of courage, a lot of balls to eliminate the world champion from the Tour de France, and I commend the jury on taking a decision that wasn’t based on influences from social media or outside," Cavendish said this morning. "Philippe Marien, he's relegated me in the past, whether I think I'm right or wrong, the rules were there and if I break the rules I get relegated. But I know definitely when those incidents are made you can't doubt them." You can read the full story here.

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BMC have lost a few of their number on this run-in to the base of La Planche des Belles Filles, but Porte still has bodies around him. Froome remains ensconced in a collection of Sky riders that includes Thomas, Mikel Landa and Kwiatkowski.

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Perichon is dropped definitively, his day at the front over. Voeckler, too, is beginning to struggle, leaving just Bakelants and Gilbert at the head of the race.

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Perichon rejoins Voeckler and Boasson Hagen, but one senses that the break's efforts will be a mere footnote by the top of La Planche des Belles Filles...

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Perichon and Voeckler dance away from Boasson Hagen as the climb begins. Back in the bunch, meanwhile, Quick-Step have taken up the reins with Dan Martin in mind...

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Quintana and Contador have been dropped. Only Martin, Bardet and Porte stayed with Chris Froome...

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This is an absurdly strong attack from Aru, who is still accelerating and seems to be stretching out his lead as the chasers watch one another.

Contador and Yates have caught back up to the Froome group, but Aru is out of sight and destined for stage victory...

Fabio Aru (Astana) wins stage 5 of the Tour de France.

Dan Martin (Quick-Step) clips away to take second place, 16 seconds down. Chris Froome (Sky) outsprints Richie Porte (BMC) for third. Froome looks set to take the maillot jaune this evening.

Aru wins, Martin second at 16 seconds. Froome and Porte were 20 seconds down. Bardet took 4th at 24 seconds. Yates, Uran and Contador lost 26 seconds. Quintana struggled but limited his losses to 34 seconds, while Geraint Thomas was 10th on the stage, 40 seconds down on Aru.

Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) lost more than two minutes. Thibaut Pinot concedes more than four.


Chris Froome takes over the maillot jaune, 12 seconds of Thomas and 14 clear of Aru, who has marked himself out as a genuine threat considering the dearth of time trialling miles to come. Dan Martin is 4th overall at 25 seconds, while Porte lies 5th at 39 seconds.

General classification:

Fabio Aru (Astana) claims his first victory at the Tour de France to go with his mountaintop wins at the Giro and the Vuelta. "I’m amazed. I attacked with three kilometres to go and gave it everything. I wanted to see who would moved because Team Sky was setting a fast pace. I wanted to see what they had," Aru says. "The final 300 metres were terrible but then when I looked back with 200 metres to go, I knew I’d got it. Winning in the tricolore jersey is a huge satisfaction. I had a very difficult spring but luckily, with a lot of hard work, things started to go my way."

An Astana rider wins on La Planche des Belles Filles in the Italian champion's jersey for the second successive time. Can Aru match Vincenzo Nibali in 2014 and wear yellow into Paris?

The men who moved into yellow here in 2012 and 2014, Wiggins and Nibali, each carried the jersey to Paris. Can Froome match them? It's been a first summit finish that has provided more questions than answers.

"I’ve won stages at the Giro and at the Vuelta, I was only missing one at the Tour de France," says Aru as he waits to mount the podium. "Vincenzo is a friend and I’m happy to win here like he did in 2014. Watching him win on videos helped me know how to ride the climb."

Aru may also have settled the leadership question at Astana this afternoon. Fuglsang lost 1:07 on the stage and is now 15th overall, 1:33 behind Froome and 1:19 behind Aru.

Dan Martin (Quick-Step) impressed and moves up to fourth overall after his second place on the stage: "I’m gutted to not win again, but we’re getting closer. It was a really good performance. It was just unlucky that Fabio got a gap there, he was super strong. I think he made a really good moment to attack. It was really hard when he attacked and I think he chose the moment well. I thought with the flat section maybe he’d come back. In the end we looked at each other, and there was a bit of hesitation and tactical, and he got a bigger gap. I thought it was closing down in the finishing straight, but it wasn’t to be."

Chris Froome (Sky) speaks after moving into the yellow jersey. "When Aru went I stayed with my teammates, waiting for the others to attack, but nobody moved. So I thought ok, we’ll have to go, what can I do? Then there was a flatter part, and it was there we maybe waited for too long. Finally, the last part was very hard, and Martin went away very quickly," says Froome, who says he will ride to defend his jersey. "I’m going to do everything to keep the yellow, but only got a small advantage, and it’s a long way to the finish. I haven’t raced much this year, I’m fresher at this part in the season and I hope in the third part of the Tour get better."

Richie Porte (BMC) speaks. "I’m happy with my ride for the first mountain stage. I kind of expected a little more but it’s a long way to go," says Porte, who evinced a certain surprise at Aru's display. "I mean, he’s incredible. In the Dauphine he was there but hardly figured. He’s obviously going well. I think he’s going to have more pressure on him now. We saw last year he took up and then exploded on one of the last stages so I think I tip my hat to him today, it’s a good ride, but I think there’s a little more pressure on him now." 


General classification:

An exhausted Dan Martin shortly after the finish line atop La Planche des Belles Filles.

Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) lies 6th overall and moves into the white jersey of best young rider, a title won by his twin brother Adam a year ago. "I always try. There's not many summit finishes this year at the Tour and I think you've really got to take every opportunity. Of course there's a lot of strong guys still not really that far behind me so it's going to be difficult to try to keep a hold of it, but I'll give it my best shot," Yates says. "I have to be cautious. Always on the front foot. Never try to get caught out. There's a lot of intermediate stages, maybe some wind and I'm only a small guy, so it's difficult for me to be there with the big guys fighting it out in the crosswinds or whatever. But we have a great team for that and I'm sure the guys will look after me as well as possible. I'll just try my best."

Chris Froome is currently in his press conference near the finish line. We will have the full story in due course.

Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) on his day: "Today the important thing was to save the Tour because I was not very well. It is true that there have been differences and that is never good but we have saved the day more or less and now we have another two days to keep getting ready."


General classification:

Thanks for following our live coverage on Cyclingnews this afternoon. A full report, results and pictures are available here. We'll be back with more live coverage from stage 6, and in the meantime, you can find all the news and reaction from La Planche des Belles Filles on Cyclingnews.

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