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Tour of California 2018: Stage 5

Welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Tour of California (men's race). We've got 176.5km from Stockton to Elk Grove - normally a much straighter shot, but the peloton heads up into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada for a long loop before heading to the finish.

It's sunny and in the 80s today at the start. The start is next to a minor league baseball team park, and the riders from AG2R threw in the ceremonial first pitch.

The riders are enjoying a neutral start in Stockton, which is located at the far west end of the Sacramento-San Joaquin river delta. Although the city looks land-locked, it's actually quite an active port, shipping out tons of food from the agricultural areas nearby.

Yesterday in Morgan Hill, Tejay van Garderen staged an impressive comeback in the overall - triumphantly winning the time trial and taking the race lead.
 

Here's the GC as it stands: 
1 Tejay van Garderen (BMC) 12:50:55
2 Egan Bernal (Team Sky) 0:00:23
3 Daniel Martinez (EF-Drapac) 0:00:37
4 Tao Geoghegan Hart (Team Sky) 0:00:52
5 Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) 0:01:07
6 Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) 0:01:29
7 Brandon McNulty (Rally Cycling) 0:02:08
8 Laurens De Plus (Quick-Step Floors) 0:02:13
9 Kristijan Durasek (UAE Team Emirates) 0:02:15
10 Brent Bookwalter (BMC) 0:02:34

174km remaining from 176km

Straight out of the gate we have an attack of five riders getting time:
 

Stijn Vandenbergh (AG2R La Mondiale), Michael Rice (Hagens Berman Axeon), Ruben Companioni (Holowesko-Citadel p/b Arapahoe Resources), Fabian Lienhard (Holowesko-Citadel p/b Arapahoe Resources), Tanner Putt (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling) make up the move.

It doesn't take long for the riders to get away from civilization, out in cattle country where cows are their only spectators.

Vandenbergh, formerly of Quick-Step, made the move to AG2R where he's been the backbone of that team's Classics squad, supporting Belgian champion Oliver Naesen. The tall, solidly built Belgian can really roll - I pity the Pro Conti riders tasked with staying on his wheel.

The peloton has decided to let them go, confident of the sprinters' teams collaborating to bring the move back in plenty of time for the finish. The gap has gone out to 1:20

The road is wide open, with fruit and almond groves on either side of the road, interspersed with the occasional estate.

Now it's walnuts, cherries. All the deliciousness you'd want.

166km remaining from 176km

The weather is quite a bit more pleasant than what the guys in the Giro d'Italia endured today. Make sure you check out our full coverage of today's stage, beginning with the report, results and photos.
 

Aike Visbeek, the Sunweb director explained his team's strategy to Pat Malach before the start:


"We are here with Max Walscheid - he’s our guy for today. We have a good lead out with Nikias Arndt and Mike Teunissen. It’s a bit tricky. I think it’s a bit of a stage where you have left to stay alert because the wind is picking up. It’s a stage where you have to stay on your toes and be sharp.
 

"It’s a stage where normally everybody thinks nothing will happen, but I think we have to be sharp.


"In the lead-out the timing is really important, because you have a long time to go to the last 3k and then you have two corners and that means that at one moment everything will be very late until the corner where it kicks off, and then every thing will go very fast, so you really have to time it right. Time it 10 seconds too late and you are on the back foot and you won’t make up for that going around that first corner in sixth or seventh position. The timing is crucial and also the focus for today."

The riders will have a sprint at kilometer 30.5 today outside of Clements, then a category 3 climb 68km into the stage.
 

There is only that one climb today, but there is a second sprint after 125km in Hagood.

Companioni could tie with mountains leader Egan Bernal (Sky) if he takes the maximum points at that climb today, and although he likely won't lead the classification outright - the tie breaker is whoever has the most KOM wins on the hardest climbs, that would be Bernal - winner on Gibraltar - but he'll stay in contention for the final stages.

Alain Gallopin (Trek Segafredo director) probably won't be putting his team on the front today. They've got Kiel Reijnen for the sprints, but with riders like Peter Sagan, Caleb Ewan, and Marcel Kittel, he's a long shot.


"This a day for the sprinters. I think they are going to control and there will be a big sprint between the big champions. Here the level for the sprinters is the best we can find. We just need to be careful with the wind and be ready for tomorrow.
 

"We are focused for the tomorrow, where Toms [Skuins] was a winner two years ago. It’s for me the queen stage tomorrow, and I think it will be a fight between Sky and BMC. We will see. I bring here more climbers than sprinters, and TT guys and we will see. We already have one nice victory and that’s not bad. I hope we can do another one."

154km remaining from 176km

The five leaders are slowly stretching their gap out - it's now at 2:25 to the peloton.

Although the official race ticker doesn't believe me, here is photographic evidence that there are five, including Vandenbergh, in the breakaway.

It's easy to spot Vandenbergh, because he's two hands taller than most of the others.

Looking at the sprinters, we've got Caleb Ewan back in his Mitchelton-Scott colours, as Egan Bernal, now deposed as race leader, is in the green jersey. We expect that with the expected sprint today that Ewan will be in green. He stands a chance of breaking Sagan's streak in that competition. The only time Sagan's lost the points classification here was in 2015 when Mark Cavendish won.

151km remaining from 176km

The leaders have 5km to the sprint with a gap of 2:45 now.

With that green jersey in their minds, Mitchelton-Scott are leading the peloton, keeping this move in check. The breakaway will mop up the intermediate sprint points.
 

Holowesko have two guys in the move so they won't have to help out with that job. They're looking for a sprint win:


John Murphy: “We were a bit frustrated with how the first day went, considering Miguel and I were in really good position. We’re looking for a little redemption today and get on that podium.
For sure we’re here to beat these guys, and try our best to show that we’re at the WorldTour level. We’re super motivated to do what we can."

145km remaining from 176km

The breakaway just rolled through the sprint point, more interested in their gap than the points.

We're super excited to bring you another Cyclingnews Film - after the popularity of The Holy Week, we'll be bringing you another one: CRESCENDO: Tales from the final week of the Giro d'Italia. Catch the details here.

Sprint 1 (km. 30.5)

1. Stijn Vandenbergh (AG2R La Mondiale)
2. Fabian Lienhard (Holowesko-Citadel)
3. Tanner Putt (UnitedHealthcare)

We're pretty bummed out about Lars Boom - he was disqualified from the Tour of Norway for attacking Preben Van Hecke during stage 2. You can read about it and see a clip of the punch here.

It doesn't look like Van Hecke intentionally swerved in front of Boom, but it was not a good example set by the Dutchman, losing his temper that way.

Mark Cavendish is one rider to watch today. He's had ample success in the Tour of California, but is still trying to turn his season around after a series of crashes - including one massive on in Milan-San Remo - disrupted his racing.


"I’m feeling alright, thank you," Cavendish told Cyclingnews at the start. "I look forward to a sprint. It will be a big boulevard sprint finish again.


"We found out who the strong teams after the first day, so we’ll hopefully try and look for a win today."

The breakaway has passed through Wallace, population 220. There's not much out this way except farms, grasslands and cattle. They've long ago left behind the groups of screaming school children and fans, it's a deafening quiet.

130km remaining from 176km

With a bit of a headwind, the peloton is having no trouble keeping the break in check, the gap has gone down a tad to 2:45.

Mark Renshaw spoke to Cyclingnews at the start. He's the lead-out man for Cavendish and is hoping they can get a win today.
 

"It’s the second opportunity of the race. It doesn’t get better than today. Pan flat and a nice run in with two corners in the final 3k to make sure everything stays in line.


"We don’t have the best team here for leading him out. We brought a bit of a mixed team. To be honest we’ll try and focus on following Quick-Step and Mitchelton, and see if they can take us deep into the final, and then it can go anywhere from that last corner at 1.3 and make sure that Cav’s in the wheel or make sure he’s in front of some of the more erratic guys and around Gaviria."

We mentioned earlier that AG2R threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the local baseball stadium in Stockton today. Didn't believe us? Here's the proof:
 

@AmgenTOC Que faire avant le départ de l’étape ? Pourquoi ne pas donner le coup d’envoi d’un match de baseball ? What should we do in Stockton before the start? Let’s play baseball! #ALLEZALM pic.twitter.com/w5ETZnsJKN

Personally I think Vandenbergh has the best pitching arm in the bunch.

118km remaining from 176km

We're a bit on the slow side for today's time schedule - they're on the 40kph schedule. The leaders are holding a 3:20 advantage as the five leaders wind up a narrow road toward the KOM.
 

Behind there's a crash in the bunch with Juraj Sagan, Rafal Majka and his teammate Poljanski doing down.

The road is winding gently up to the Pardee Resevoir, where the riders will turn and parallel the water heading to the KOM.

All three of the riders who fell got back up, so no worries for Majka who is sixth overall.

The Pardee Reservoir is formed by its eponymous dam, which is quite an impressive bit of engineering. It's not without controversy, however.

The breakaway has just passed over the Pardee Dam - and immediately they're on the climb. 500m to go to the top.

#feedzone views. #soigneurlife

#feedzone views. #soigneurlife : @rachel_voyles #AmgenTOC #oneobsession @oakley @bdoege7 @EmCaughlin https://t.co/XSXLnuEwc6

@TeamHincapie Thu, 17th May 2018 19:59:45

108km remaining from 176km

Majka, Poljanski and Juraj Sagan have rejoined the peloton after that spill - the gap has gone out to 3:25 thanks to that little disruption as the leaders tackle the KOM.

Lars Boom has apologized for his behaviour in Norway today: "I want to say sorry to all cycling fans, the organizer of the Tour of Norway and all other cyclists for my wrong reaction in today’s incident."

Race radio is having some trouble today, but it seems Michael Rice (Hagens Berman Axeon)
and Stijn Vandenbergh (AG2R La Mondiale) were the first two across that KOM. It seems Companioni won't contest for the mountains jersey.

On second report, it does seem that Companioni has taken first on the KOM, so that ties him with Bernal in the mountains classification.

It seems that Katusha-Alpecin believe in Marcel Kittel for today's finish, since they've come forward to help control this breakaway. Kittel has been busy honing his new team's lead-out train and has only two wins so far this season.

The riders are skirting the small town of Ione, in the heart of Gold Rush country. This town was once known as "Bed Bug"- we're betting that it didn't do much for their tourism industry.
 

Now with its more melodious name, Ione is home to the Preston Castle, formerly school for juvenile delinquents, and the Mule Creek State Prison.

The peloton is speeding along Dave Brubeck Road, the street is named after the famous jazz pianist who grew up nearby in Ione.

The peloton is lined out in pursuit of the leaders over undulating terrain, bringing the gap down to 3:05. They're currently under the power of Ecuador champion Jhonatan Narvaez (Quick-Step Floors) working for Fernando Gaviria.

It's quite a narrow road, with half of it under construction, so the peloton is having to tighten up to get through.

Narvaez is a product of Axel Merckx's Axeon squad, graduating this year to the WorldTour. He's already been on the podium in the Drome Classic, and was second overall in the young riders classification at the Vuelta a San Juan.
 

His move to Quick-Step wasn't a surprise, as he'd been on that squad's Continental feeder team.

Up ahead, Michael Rice - a former teammate of Narvaez - is in this breakaway. He won the Tour of the Gila criterium this year.
 

Despite Vandenbergh taking heroic turns, the advantage is coming down to 2:45 now that TV's turned on.

The Swiss rider, Lienhard, was the winner of a stage in the Tour de Normandie this year. He led that race for four stages after taking the first day from a breakaway. He came across from Team Voralberg with whom he made the podium in Rund um Koln, Tour de Berne, Tour du Jura and Tour de Vendee.

Back in the peloton Sagan is back in the team cars with his feed bag, he's not too fussed about the pace. Van Garderen is tucked on the wheel of Rosskopf but then stops for a natural break perhaps.

It's a tough time to stop as Katusha now have the bunch lined out up front.

Alvaro Hodge is back at the Quick Step car getting an adjustment to his seatpost. Right now the peloton know they have this well under control and it's casual.

Tanner Putt, 26, has just one pro victory to his name but it was a good one - a stage of the Tour of Alberta in 2016.

And we've talked some about Companioni's KOM rankings, but did you know he won the Joe Martin Stage Race this year? He won a lot of criteriums before moving to Holowesko, and was second in a stage in Tour of Utah in 2016.

74km remaining from 176km

So far the quintet up front are holding their gap steady at 2:45 with still 74km to go.

In case you were at all concerned, Sagan finished his lunch and is back in the midst of the peloton. Noticeably there's a wide berth around the world champion. None of the Pro Conti guys here want the reputation of the guy who crashed Peter Sagan.

Gaviria is in the peloton having a chat with Lukazs Wisniowski. The two were teammates on Quick-Step in 2016, but the Pole has since moved to Sky.

It looks like a probable bunch sprint on the first stage of the Amgen Women's Race, the WorldTour event heads to the same finish as the men's today - they have under 20k to go with Supermint's Whitney Allison on a solo attack.

Let's look at the palmares of our tallest rider in the breakaway, Stijn Vandenbergh. You may know him as 'bubble boy' - he's finished just off the podium of the Tour of Flanders and E3 Harelbeke in 2014, and in Gent-Wevelgem in 2015.

He was Tom Boonen's doppelganger and helper for years, but now moved to the French squad. 

65km remaining from 176km

There's still one more intermediate sprint to motivate the breakaway - it comes with 51km to go.

It's snack time for Lienhard - they've been cruising out front for two hours 40 minutes and have earned some sweets.

It's still pretty casual in the peloton - Phinney's gone back to the team car, a Di Data rider stopped for a nature break. The cameras are focussed on Caleb Ewan and his Scott Foil Disc - it's a switch as he's used caliper brakes earlier this year. Check out his bike here.

Our man Pat Malach cornered Ewan this morning about today's stage:
 

"I feel good. My form’s coming along pretty nicely. Another opportunity today, and hopefully we can go for the win."
 

"Today’s stage is only a few corners on the final and open long roads. The first stage was obviously a circuit, so a bit more corners and stuff like that. We’ve looked at the course, and we’ve figured out how we want to run it, so hopefully it works out."

Let's talk motivation for the stages: aside from glory, WorldTour points and leverage come contract time, the winner of the stage gets 4,000 Euros. The winner of the race overall gets 14,000€. That's not very much in the grand scheme of pro sports.

The men and women have 'equal' prize lists, but the women's overall winner gets less than €6k, but they only do three stages, so it's hardly equal.

I'm sure the women aren't complaining, however, as that prize list is more than what was paid out at the Classics.

3km to go in the women's race, and it looks like it'll be a sprint.

Kendall Ryan (Tibco) took an emphatic win in the women's race - her biggest victory to date.

51km remaining from 176km

Now that Bora has come to the front, the gap is starting to come down quicker - down to 2:10 as the break heads to the second sprint.

Kendall Ryan (Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank) wins stage 1 of the Amgen Women's Race https://t.co/XQEoeBLQKF https://t.co/Sfqc8y9x6F

@Cyclingnewsfeed Thu, 17th May 2018 21:25:19

Looks like Rachele Barbieri (Wiggle High5) was second just getting ahead of a strong early sprint from Rally's Emma White.

The wind has really picked up for the men, and they're going to be seeing heavy crosswinds on the wide open highways to the finish.

There's no repeater in the air today, so we're struggling to get race radio information sorry.

46km remaining from 176km

Right now there's no urgency in the peloton to chase the five riders back. It's Katusha, Bora, chasing while up ahead the breakaway is on one of those arrow straight roads. 2:20 is the gap.

43km remaining from 176km

The sprinters should be a bit nervous about the run-in. There are a few tricky corners in the final kilometer including a roundabout inside the final 200m.

We can see the peloton starting to echelon up - the front at least, as they get a cross headwind from the left. Tao Geoghegan Hart was being buffeted around a bit as he moved up into his team's formation.

Cavendish had a bit of a heated chat with Max Richeze, but it quickly de-escalated. Unlike Lars Boom, Cav's kept his hands on the bars and just verbally berated the Argentinean rider.

The peloton hasn't quite decided what it wants to do - the gap is at 2:20, Lotto-Jumbo and Sunweb are moving into position, but so far at the front it's all Mitchelton-Scott.

Apologies for the erroneous women's results earlier. Emma White was second, with Annette Edmondson in third, you can find the full results here.

31km remaining from 176km

Still 31km to go and the peloton are wasting no energy chasing down this breakaway yet. There doesn't seem to be the typical disagreements about who will chase, just Bora's Michal Kolar setting a steady pace.

But it's also four riders against five, because Katusha, Bora, Mitchelton-Scott, and Quick-Step each have one rider pulling. Meanwhile in the breakaway, it's five cooperating. They've got a very stiff crosswind at the moment which might be demotivating the peloton.

Once they make the right turn, the wind will be more critical.

24km remaining from 176km

Didn't mean to leave you hanging, a fire truck showed up at my house because a tree is on fire. So let's get this stage finished, guys....

 

The gap is coming down now, 1:50 as more teams start putting riders up front to chase.

Vandenbergh takes another one of his massive pulls. Usually he's the guy in the peloton chasing the break down, but here he's trying to stay away. But uh-oh, we see Daniel Oss coming forward. If anyone can bring it back, it's the Italian.

The peloton splits around a a roundabout - it's a lovely bit of public art in the center, with metal swans.

It's Hepburn for Mitchelton-Scott in charge of keeping this breakaway close.

The peloton's being helped along by that brisk tailwind, Narvaez comes forward then waggles his elbow for the Dimension Data rider to pull. The peloton is not in full flight, but the breakaway is: Companioni pulls off after a big effort.

20km remaining from 176km

The gap is down to 1:40 with 20km to go. We fear it's not going to be enough for our quintet.

The peloton head through the "waste zone" where they are allowed to empty their bottle cages and pockets. Much better than littering across the countryside. The bottles bounce around but everyone avoids them.

The peloton is still squid-shaped behind Iljo Keisse, some fresh legs in the chase chipping another 10 seconds off the breakaway's lead.

18km remaining from 176km

Rice has been distanced from the breakaway.

The new riders chasing have really put the breakway's lead into trouble, in the space of 500m it's come down another 10 seconds.

Oh we've lost another breakaway rider, that's not good news. It's one of the Holowesko boys who's gone.

UAE have come forward in the chase for Kristoff.

15km remaining from 176km

We've lost Companioni from the escape, so the three riders are losing time quicker now as Sky and BMC come forward. The crosswinds are making the GC men nervous.

EF-Drapac rise to the head of the washing-machine peloton now - it's quite chaotic as teams move forward and get passed.

Hard right and Sky now string out the bunch, are they trying to split it?

13km remaining from 176km

Bernal is sitting behind Luke Rowe at the front of the peloton, the injection of pace halving the gap to the leaders.

There are no splits in the bunch showing, but the previously egg-shaped peloton is now decidedly worm-shaped.

They've figured out that the winds aren't favourable for echelons, so the sprinter teams have come forward again.

The peloton is stink-bug shaped now as we've got a puncture for Cavendish! Bad luck!

12km remaining from 176km

This is not going to be a good day for Cav, 12k to go and he's not getting back on his bike quickly. What a crap wheel change!

To the Manxman's credit, he takes it calmly.

Looked like Cav didn't puncture, but was run into and probably broke a spke. He's chasing back on but he's on his own.

It's a long way to the peloton for Cav. Up ahead, the breakaway are in sight of the peloton so maybe, maybe they'll ease up.

9km remaining from 176km

Inside the final 10km, and on some rough roads, the peloton spread out into box-shape and aren't fussed about catching quite yet.

8km remaining from 176km

Cavendish could be excused for being a bit gun-shy chasing through the cars after his run-in with the race vehicle in the Abu Dhabi Tour. But he's doing well and the peloton have sat up letting the gap to the leaders double to 23s.

Jay Thompson is back for Cavendish, and two more riders have rejoined them to help with the chase.

In the break, it's Vandenbergh. In the peloton, Trek, EF-Drapac and BMC. In the cars, Dimension Data.

Now Kittel has a problem!

Kittel's mechanic was far more adept, and he was back on a fresh wheel and on the move immediately.

6km remaining from 176km

Cavendish made it back in!

Now it's Katusha's turn to sit up and help their sprinter back in.

All this is disrupting the chase of the trio ahead - 15 seconds to them.

EF-Drapac and Bora are now at the head of the peloton, with Caleb Ewan choosing to sit back and watch Quick-Step.

Reasonable strategy for Ewan - on no crash!

Jasper Philipson is injured, his arm bloody. Sunweb are standing around. A Rally rider sits up - Da Vos is dazed but OK.

3km remaining from 176km

Just outside the 3km that crash. A Sky rider seemed to spark the whole thing.

The trio are still clear thanks to that chaos.

Lienhard attacks as the bunch close in

2km remaining from 176km

2km to go and the trio are still away, but the bunch are in flight.

Nope, it's over for the move.

Here come Quick-Step in perfect timing.

Ewan is up here, as is Gaviria, did Kittel make it?

No, that's Trek-Segafredo and EF-Drapac.

Mezgec battles Richeze at the front.

Last 200m and it's Gaviria who goes first

Ewan goes after him with Sagan

But Gaviria's powerful effort was good enough to hold off Ewan. Sagan rolls in for another top finish, but third won't make him happy.

It was Rick Zabel in fourth. Kittel didn't quite make it back. Axeon's Sean Bennett put in a good sprint but it was too early, and he was in the wind.

1 Fernando Gaviria (Col) Quick-Step Floors
2 Caleb Ewan (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
3 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
4 Rick Zabel (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin
5 John Murphy (USA) Holowesko-Citadel p/b Arapahoe Resources
6 Sean Bennett (USA) Hagens Berman Axeon
7 Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling
8 Ivo Oliveira (Por) Hagens Berman Axeon
9 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
10 Travis McCabe (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling

General classification after stage 5

1 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team
2 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky 0:00:23
3 Daniel Martinez (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale 0:00:37
4 Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:52
5 Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott 0:01:07
6 Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:01:29
7 Brandon McNulty (USA) Rally Cycling 0:02:08
8 Laurens De Plus (Bel) Quick-Step Floors 0:02:13
9 Kristijan Durasek (Cro) UAE Team Emirates 0:02:15
10 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:02:34

It was Wisniowski who came across with TJ Eisenhart, the Sky rider seemed to touch wheels just outside 3km to go and bring down a big bunch of riders. They all seem to have gotten up. Sunweb's four men finish together a little worse for the wear.

Gaviria looks a little tired as he gets the flowers for stage winner. There's no change in the overall classification as thankfully all the top riders were ahead of that crash.

That was a snoozer of a stage that ended in chaos, but tomorrow should be far more of a sustained level of excitement. They go back into the hills, up to the rarified air of Lake Tahoe for a big mountain finish. Join us once again from start to finish coverage right here!

Until then, ciao!

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