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Froome takes yellow as Aru wins Stage 5 of the 2017 Tour de France

Sam Challis Stu Bowers
5 Jul 2017

Aru escapes on the final climb to take Stage 5 victory, Geraint Thomas hands yellow jersey to team leader Froome

Fabio Aru put in a huge attack with 1.5km to win on La Planche des Belles Filles at the end of Stage 5 of the 2017 Tour de France today.

Chris Froome moves into yellow, taking the jersey from teammate Geraint Thomas after the main GC contenders sparred on La Planche des Belles Filles.

Riders were forced to maintain a brutally fast pace (exceeding even the fastest timing estimates) by an early escape that contained some serious firepower.

It cost many riders over the stage’s two main climbs – the category 3 Cote d'Esmoulieres (2.3km at 8%) and the category 1 La Planche des Belles Filles (5.9km at 8.5%), at the top of which the stage finished.

Aru’s attack was perfectly timed and he was untouchable in the closing kilometre.

The story of Stage 5 at the 2017 Tour de France

Today's stage from Vittel to La Planche des Belles Filles was the shortest road stage of the opening week at 160.5km, and the first mountain-top finish of this year’s race as it enters the Vosges region.

The peloton rolled out on the opening week’s shortest road stage under a cloud of controversy surrounding yesterday’s dramatic sprint finish into Vittel.

Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), two key protagonists in yesterday’s chaotic sprint events, are no longer in the race, retired injured and disqualified respectively.

In any case neither would have been expected to figure at the business end of the stage, which finished at the summit of La Planche des Belles Filles (5.9km at 8.5%).

The stats of the final ascent are unassuming however the very same climb served as a catalyst for blowing the GC wide open at the 2012 Tour de France, won by Sir Bradley Wiggins, so the main contenders were not expecting an easy day in the saddle.

The stage was explosive from the get-go. The perennially aggressive Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) forced a move early on – not surprising in itself but more in the calibre of riders that he pulled with him.

Jan Bakelants (Ag2r La Mondiale), Mickael Delage (FDJ), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data), Dylan van Baarle (Cannonale-Drapac), Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fortuneo-Oscaro), Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) came with the Frenchman.

Together they worked effectively to quickly stretch out a lead of three and a half minutes over the peloton.

The group contained five previous Tour de France stage winners, with nine stage wins between them, so it looked like this would be a highly influential move.

However, Team Sky and BMC, working for their main GC hopes Chris Froome and Richie Porte respectively, policed the pace of the peloton to ensure the break didn't get too much of an advantage.

It all amounted to a brutally fast first hour of racing, the riders covering over 48 kilometres in an effort that cost many riders towards the end of the stage.

Halfway through the stage BMC began to take on the bulk of the pace-setting to peg the breakaway down, slowly eating into their advantage.

With Sagan out of the race, the green jersey competition is a much leveller playing field, and Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) sought to take full advantage at the intermediate sprint with 60km to go, taking maximum points ahead of Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors).

The peloton scrabbled for the minor placings, with Sunweb’s Michael Matthews taking ninth. Few points may have been on offer but the hustle and bustle served to eat into the breakaway’s advantage even further, their gap now down to around 1:30.

They hit the Cote d'Esmoulieres still with 1:30 but Voeckler quickly started to force the pace, shelling Mickael Delage (FDJ) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal). Bakelants took the points over the top with a 10 second advantage over the rest of the break but it reformed on the descent that followed.

Compared to the rest of the stage the bunch took the Cote d'Esmoulieres relatively easy, so the break’s lead lengthened to 2:30 as they attacked the descent.

Bakelants, Voeckler, Gilbert, Van Baarle, Boasson Hagen and Perichon settled into an efficient rhythm as they reached 30km to go, still 2:30 ahead.

The size of the gap started to cause some concern in the peloton but with the average speed at this point nudging 45kmh and the temperature around 35℃, little headway could yet be made into their advantage by the chasing pack.

The GC teams started to force the pace further some 15km out in order to get their main contenders in position for the base of La Planche des Belles Filles, knocking a minute off the break’s advantage.

As the road started to head northward Gilbert launched an attack off the break with 12km to go in an attempt to solo to victory or, failing that, provide support for Quick Step’s GC rider Dan Martin. Bakelants joined Gilbert and the lead two maintained 1:30 over the pack inside the last 10km.

Team Sky took control at the base of La Planche des Belles Filles and the gap to the leaders started to tumble. Things came back together with 3.5km to go thanks to Sky’s show of strength at the front of the peloton.

A huge effort by Michel Kwiatkowski kept everyone in check until he handed over pace-setting to Nieve with 3km to go, but Aru attacked shortly after to light up the stage, putting considerable distance into the chasing pack very quickly.

Froome, Simon Yates (Orica-Scott), Porte and Romain Bardet (AG2R) quickly shed the rest of the peloton and took turns attacking each other as the stage drew to a close but none could touch Aru as he took the win.

Tour de France 2017: Stage 5, Vittel – La Planche des Belles Filles (160.5km), result

1. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team, in 3:44:06
2. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors, at 0:16
3. Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at 0:20
4. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team, at 0:20
5. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, at 0:24
6. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 0:26
7. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac, at same time
8. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, st
9. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team, at 0:34
10. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, at 0:40

Tour de France 2017: General classification top 10 after Stage 5

1. Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky, in 18:38:59
2. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, at 0:12
3. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team, at 0:14
4. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors, at 0:25
5. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, at 0:39
6. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 0:43
7. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 0:47
8. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, at 0:52
9. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team, at 0:54
10. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1:01