Stage 5) Gannat - La Côte-Saint-André
Paris-Nice: Deceuninck – Quick-Step on the attack
The peloton continued to chase the sun and head south at Paris-Nice, which Thursday scheduled the longest stage in 16 years, a 227km journey between Gannat and La Côte-Saint-André, peppered with five small classified climbs. It was on the last of these, right after the intermediate sprint in Saint-Julien-de-l’Herms, that Julian Alaphilippe came off the wheel of Zdenek Stybar and launched a valiant attack.
Although short-lived, that move opened the door for a more concerted effort, instigated by Kasper Asgreen and Bob Jungels. The winners of the past two Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne editions were quickly joined by three other men and they opened a 17-second gap, applying significant pressure on the yellow jersey, who was forced in the beginning to do all the chasing. Unfortunately for the quintet, despite their prospects looking promising, a sudden lack of collaboration doubled by a joined effort of the sprinters’ teams cancelled their advantage and saw them being reeled in with seven kilometers to go.
At that point, only one rider from the original breakaway was still in the front and it looked like Jan Tratnik (Bahrain-McLaren) would go on and take the win, but the Slovenian was denied by Niccolo Bonifazio (Total Direct Energie), who passed him in the last 50 meters. Zdenek Stybar finished as Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s highest-ranked rider, while Julian Alaphilippe gained a place in the standings ahead of the stage to Apt, where a reshuffling of the general classification is expected.
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