Fabio Aru (Astana) produced a stunning attack in the final 2.5km on the La Planche des Belles Filles climb to win stage 5 of the Tour de France ahead of Dan Martin (Quickstep-Floors) and Chris Froome (Team Sky).
Today’s stage was going to give some indication of where the Yellow Jersey might lie come Paris, but today the Italian national champion, Aru tore up the script to win on the Tour’s first summit finish and in process claimed a victory which means he now holds a stage victory in all three of the Grand Tours.
But Froome’s third placed finish moved him into the yellow jersey, 12 seconds ahead of his teammate Geraint Thomas and 14 seconds ahead of Aru, as the battle for yellow stepped up a gear.
Prior to the start of the stage much was made of the dramatic exclusion of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) from the Tour after yesterday’s crash involving himself and Mark Cavendish (Dimension-Data). The World champion was thrown out of the Tour after the race jury deemed the Slovak ‘endangered’ Cavendish in the sprint finale to Vittel yesterday.
But today was never going to be a day for the sprinters; it was all about the GC contenders and today showed that despite an apparent lack of form, three-time winner Froome is still the man to beat. Although the Briton didn’t win the stage in the final kilometres he attacked and got a psychological edge over his rivals.
Richie Porte (Team BMC), Romain Bardet (Ag2r La-Mondiale), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Martin all followed Froome’s attack, but come the finish it was only the Irishman, Martin that was able to keep with the pace. While Porte, Bardet, Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Quintana all lost some valuable seconds.
BMC were eyeing yellow, but in the end their plan failed to come off
Aside from the Sagan controversy, at the start of the day many people were talking up Porte’s chances – the Australian is on good form and is considered as Froome’s closest challenger this year. Today’s stage was perfectly suited to Porte and many expected the 32-year-old to take some time off of his rivals.
But after BMC done a lot of the work on the front, in the end they were usurped as rival teams ambushed their efforts at the end as Porte lost some small, but not insurmountable time to Froome.
But, the day started with a breakaway of 8 riders which who included: Jan Bakelants (Ag2r La-Mondiale), Mickael Delage (FDJ), Edvald Boasson-Hagen (Dimension-Data), Philippe Gilbert (Quickstep-Floors), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie), Dylan Van Baarle (Cannondale-Drapac), and Pierre –Luc Perichon (Fortuneo).
That break was established from the get-go and the remnants of that break were only caught with 4km to go as Gilbert and Bakelants were swept up by the peloton.
The stage was short and sweet with much of the action happening in the latter part of the stage. In the early part Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) won the intermediate sprint to stake his claim as a possible Green jersey winner, now that Sagan is no longer in the Tour.
But as the raced headed to the main attraction of the day, the La Planche des Belles Filles it was clear a battle between the GC guys was about to ensue.
Aru wins stage in impressive fashion
As the race hit the steeps slopes of the Belles Filles, the last remaining riders of the breakaway were caught after some impressive riding from Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky). But as the GC guys were readying there attacks, it was the opportune Italian that took his chance to steal the stage.
Aru, who recently won the Italian national championships in impressive fashion, superbly rode away from the reduced peloton, and by the time Froome and company had reacted it was too late as Aru had built a healthy lead.
Whilst Aru was ahead concentrating on the stage win, behind Froome launched his effort to take some time on his rivals. Most of them were able to stay with the three-time winner to the end losing some time, but not enough to put their Tour bids in jeopardy. But the big losers were Quintana and Contador as they failed to deal with the pace.
But for Aru it was a wonderful day as he claimed victory on the first big GC day, whether Aru will stick around, only time will tell.
But after the drama of yesterday, stage 5 of the 2017 Tour certainly provided yet more questions as the battle for the Maillot Jaune is well and truly on.