Thursday, 16 August, 2018

Tour de France heats up as favourites falter

Peter Sagan sprints to victory on stage five of the Tour de France Peter Sagan sprints to victory on stage five of the Tour de France
Frederick Owens | 14 July, 2018, 20:53

The sprinter became only the third Dutch rider to win back to back stages of the Tour de France, coming from deep with a blisteringly fast finish to outstrip favourites Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors).

'Also, if those cycling journalists talked about some really choppy riders rather than me, trying to get clicks, then we'd see who they really are'.

Gaviria and Sagan were marking each other when Groenewegen surprised both and surged ahead on the final straight.

Five years after his first stage win and the last Irish victory on the Tour, at Bagneres-du-Bigorres in the Pyrenees, Martin took glory on the shorter but equally steep slopes of the aptly named Mur de Bretagne, or "Wall of Brittany". Today the legs were good and everything was OK, " Groenewegen said.

"The first days were not good enough, the legs were not good".

"Having already lost 53 seconds on the stage - finishing 46th after a big effort from team-mate Soren Kragh Andersen, in the white jersey, to minimise their losses, he now drops to 19th - 1'23" behind yellow jersey Greg van Avermaet.

Sagan would regret going as early as he did as he faded in the final 100 metres and finished fourth.

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World champion road racer Sagan said he'd been happy enough to stay on Gaviria's wheel and keep ahead in the green points jersey race.

After crossing the line, Groenewegen placed his finger to his lips in a gesture of silence. "I'd like to win on the Champs-Elysées again but that's a long way away and we have a hard stage on the cobblestones tomorrow to think of first".

The 231-kilometre (143.5-mile) trek from Fougeres, home to the best-preserved and largest medieval fortress in Europe, concluded in Chartres, site of a vast cathedral known for its stained-glass windows.

Greg Van Avermaet retains the yellow jersey.

Instead, it was Yoann Offredo of Team Wanty-Groupe Gobert who led on his on his own for around 80km. The break was therefore given little leeway and despite a brief late attack by Philippe Gilbert, a bunch sprint was all but inevitable.

Stage 8 on Saturday covers a slightly more challenging terrain over 181 kilometres from Dreux to Amiens but again should set up well for sprinters.

For 13 miles of Sunday's stage, the pack of more than 170 cyclists will shake, rumble and chatter their way across the lumpy cobbles of northern France between Arras and Roubaix.

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