FINISTERE, FRANCE - Slovakia’s Peter Sagan clinched his second stage win of the 2018 Tour de France on Wednesday, beating Sonny Colbrelli and Philippe Gilbert at the uphill finish of stage five.
Defending champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) and the other overall contenders finished in or close to the main group as overnight leader and Olympic road race champion Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) retained the yellow jersey.
Belgian Philippe Gilbert sparked the hostilities early on the uphill finish of the 204.5-km ride from Lorient, but the Quick-Step rider failed to open up a significant gap on the chasing bunch.
Van Avermaet, wearing the yellow jersey, then pulled to the front in a bid for the stage win as the finish line approached but peaked too early.
The race leader was left powerless when Sagan sped past on his left. Colbrelli pushed the Slovakian all the way but, as he did in stage two, finished second best.
Sagan said following the yellow jersey had helped land him the stage.
“I would like to thank Greg (Van Avermaet) because he did me a favor when he went for it, I don’t know if he did it on purpose but he dropped a lot of people,” said Sagan, who has tightened his grip on the points classification’s green jersey.
Asked if it would be a battle all the way to Paris with Fernando Gaviria for the green jersey prize, Sagan said: “I hope not!”
The pair have two stage wins each from the first five and Sagan had predicted Tuesday the Colombian might struggle with the climbs.
“The fact he wasn’t in the sprint was good for me,” Sagan, who now leads Gaviria by 33 points, said.
Despite a spectator-friendly slug up the final hill, race designer Thierry Gouvenou told AFP he had expected more fireworks.
“I’m not sure the riders knew how to take advantage of it, the stage really could have been much more interesting,” he said of the course some were describing as riddled with traps.
With five categorized climbs to be negotiated over the narrow, tree-lined Brittany roads a breakaway was to be expected.
An escape group featuring Sylvain Chavanel embarked on a long-range bid with Van Avermaet’s BMC doing most of the work at the head of the chasing peloton, and Bora joining the chase late.