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“I am only 6 seconds behind Michael Matthews overall, I have the right to believe even if the last two stages seem very difficult for me.”

Photo: ASO/G.Demouveaux

AG2R LA MONDIALE

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ALBERTO CONTADOR

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ALEXANDER KRISTOFF

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ALEXEY LUTSENKO

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ALEXIS GOUGEARD

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ANDRÉ GREIPEL

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CHRIS ANKER SØRENSEN

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DAVIDE CIMOLAI

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DRIES DEVENYNS

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EF PRO CYCLING

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FABIO FELLINE

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FRANK SCHLECK

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GERAINT THOMAS

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IAM CYCLING

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JESUS HERRADA

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JOSE JOAQUIN ROJAS GIL

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JULIEN LOUBET

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KATUSHA ALPECIN

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LAWSON CRADDOCK

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LOTTO SOUDAL

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MICHAEL MATTHEWS

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MITCHELTON-SCOTT

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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NTT PRO CYCLING TEAM

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PARIS - NICE

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PATRICK BEVIN

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RICHIE PORTE

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ROMAIN BARDET

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RUI ALBERTO FARIA DA COSTA

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SEP VANMARCKE

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SERGE PAUWELS

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TEAM SUNWEB

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TOM DUMOULIN

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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UAE TEAM EMIRATES

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VICENTE REYNES

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WILCO KELDERMAN

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11.03.2016 @ 23:40 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) proved his status as a great escape artist by claiming his second WorldTour victory from a breakaway on stage 5 of Paris-Nice. The Kazakh attacked over the top of the final climb with less than 30km to go and managed to hold off a reduced peloton by 21 seconds. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) beat Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) in the sprint for second while Lutsenko moved into second overall, 6 seconds behind Matthews.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Alexey Lutsenko: I have the right to believe that I can win Paris-Nice

 “In the final kilometres, I knew the bunch was pretty close to me but I had good feelings from my legs so I continued to push at maximum on the pedals and my determination has been rewarded with this incredible victory,” said Alexey Lutsenko after the podium.

 

“I was feeling quite good in the last hills of the day so, when my teammate Lars Boom was caught from the bunch, I tried to go a couple of times. At the first time the group caught me, at the second I escaped and I knew there was still one guy at the front but honestly I thought to go as fast as possible and that was the right choice.

 

"I attacked on the last climb. I managed to take some 40 seconds and I rode the last 25 kilometres solo. It's my second World Tour victory after a stage on the Tour of Switzerland last year. But it's my best victory of the season, for me and for the team. Tomorrow, we will see.

 

“This is my second victory in World Tour race and I think it is a very good way to start the season. I want to dedicate today’s win to my family, who does many sacrificies when I’m away from home for long period.

 

“Tomorrow we will race in Nice, that is my home here in France, I’m so proud about today’s perfomance and now I’m second on the GC, just 6 seconds from the wellow jersey: let’s see how the race will develop in the last two stages.

 

"I get confidence in me. I am young. Already in the Tour of Switzerland, I attacked from afar and I showed that I can do things like great riders. I'm not surprised that the favorites did not react to my attack. 

 

”Since Sunday, the race has been difficult, the weather conditions were terrible. I attaced and let the legs speak speak. I attacked at the right time to make the winding descent in front. Katusha had already done a lot. When I had 40 seconds, the worst was over. I can time trial and I can climb. Why not go for the GC in one-week stage races one day.

 

"It is an important victory. When Kivilev died I was ten, I was not even doing sports but I remember him, for what he did in the Tour de France (4th in 2001). This is a victory for me and for the Kazakhs. "

 

”I get confidence gradually. This win reminds me of the Tour of Switzerland, it proves that I am not afraid to attack quite far from the finish. I work hard for it, and being able to survive the medium climbs and having good TT skills encourage me to persevere. 
 

”I think I attacked at the right time. What is important in cycling is also to find the right breakaway. I did not make a mistake because I imagined that sprint teams were already exhausted after bringing their leader back. We saw it with Katusha who had made great efforts for Kristoff. After such an exhausting stage, there was fewer teams capable of working in the final to take me back.

 

“It is a beautiful symbol for my family and my country where everyone has been marked by Kivilev’s tragedy. I did known Andrey, I was only ten years old at the time but I remember seeing images  on TV. This is obviously a great day for me and Kazakh cycling.
 

“I am only 6 seconds behind Michael Matthews overall, I have the right to believe even if the last two stages seem very difficult for me.”

 

Kristoff: I can’t really be disappointed because I wasn’t expecting anything

It was a difficult day in the 74th Paris-Nice on Friday with five rated-climbs, including Mont Ventoux (until Chalet Reynard) along the way to challenge the riders. Team Katusha’s Alexander Kristoff found himself tantalizingly close to the top step of the podium by taking second place, but the margin to the solo winner was 21-seconds, clear evidence that the timing of the catch was just a little off for stage five.

 

“I can’t really say I’m disappointed because I wasn’t expecting to win, but then when we get so close with only one guy still out there that is a bit frustrating. Not many teams wanted to help us from the last climb, but we did try. We didn’t have the power needed because I had been dropped earlier and we’d had to chase back. We used up lots of energy doing that and needed a little bit of rest to start pulling again. The team did a great job and were around me all the time, especially Sergey Lagutin, Pavel Kochetkov and Simon Špilak – it seems like Simon was constantly waiting for me today! I must really thank him for that. This was a very hard stage today so in terms of conditioning it was good to go deep. Now I feel really tired so I hope I can recover,” said team sprinter Alexander Kristoff.

 

“We did all we could in the final, but Lutsenko was just stronger. The team was really great, we did not expect much today, but since we managed to bring Alex back in front we fought for the stage victory. It was a good race for us, strong team and fighting spirit. Of course, we are a bit disappointed, we were close, but that's cycling,” said team director Dmitry Konyshev.

 

Michael Matthews: Today I confirmed that I can win Paris-Nice

Michael Matthews successfully defended the yellow jersey again today in Paris-Nice taking third on a hilly stage five. Matthews gained a four second bonus by finishing in third place and retains his lead going into the penultimate stage of the WorldTour race.

 

Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Pro Team) took a solo victory in Salon-de-Provence, moving him up to second place in the general classification, six seconds behind Matthews.

 

"It was a hard day for everybody but I feel good," Matthews explained after the stage. "Not super but good. I don't think anybody feels super after the first three days we had. I had noted this stage down as I was hoping we could get rid of the sprinters along the way but as we didn't, we sat back and let the other teams do the work. The priority was then the yellow jersey more than the stage win.

 

"I'm not going to say I can win Paris-Nice but I'm going to give it everything I have. It's already over for the green jersey, I won it, so now it's all for the yellow.

 

“I didn’t suffer too much today, I think everybody was more or less in the same state. We know that it will all be decided in the last two stages and I expecting some fireworks. But I’ll still the leader and I confirmed today that it’s possible to stay that way to the end.

 

"I have even more confidence. I am well but I also know that the road is long with two very difficult stages left. I'm not surprised not to see my rivals move. Today it was not a stage to go for the general classification. It was especially about conserving energy. I had a great team around me and had it been necessary, they would have done the job to protect my yellow jersey.

 

"I'm glad I got through this difficult stage without difficulty. I had made this stage a target because I was hoping we could get rid of more sprinters, but in the end it turned out not to be the case and therefore we mainly let the other teams do the work in pursuit of Lutsenko. More than a third place in the sprint was not possible. 

 

“My confidence has grown today. It was a difficult stage, but I was not à bloc and was comfortable throughout the day. There was a few attacks from my opponents, but I did not expect anything else. They know I'm still fresh and have a strong team around me. Even though I had to let them go on those climbs, I was able to come back later and they wasted energy needlessly. Everyone knows that Saturday and Sunday are the key stages. They determine the winner which will give aspectacle.

 

"It's a bonus to have Simon Yates well placed overall. He's a great climber and he has lost no time since the start of the race. With him, we are in an interesting situation and if I can’t keep the yellow jersey, he may be able to conquer it but for now I am in yellow.

 

"That is definitely an advantage. He has come through the past few days well and is a good climber. If I cannot win it, then I hope he  can take over from me, but as long as I do not crac in the mountains, I'm the leader.”

 

Sport director Laurenzo Lapage was happy with the race so far for the team and the condition of the riders heading into the tough final two stages.

 

"It's another day now we are in the lead and today the team was really great again," Lapage said. "Matthews got over the climbs today in good position so it shows the form he has. The next two stages are really the hardest ones. Today we also had Simon Yates who was in really great condition, so I think for the next two stages we have a strong situation with Michael in the lead and Simon ready for the action."

 

LAMPRE-MERIDA’s riders demonstrated a good attitude in the approach of the Mont Ventoux with the result that Bono, Cimolai, Grmay, Meintjes and Rui Costa reached the summit in the main group. Cimolai was 4th. Rui Costa was 25th and in the overall classification he’s 30th, 53″ behind leader Matthews.

 

The worst news for LAMPRE-MERIDA is the withdrawal of Marko Kump who was weak after having suffered in the bad weather conditions which characterized the previous stages.

 

Today hurt the legs,” Costa wrote in his diary. “It was a difficult day in terms of hardness. To have an idea, despite having reached the finish with a group of about 70 riders, it was the day with the highest average power. We rode at a fast pace, just take a look at all the international stars we have here in this race. We did a good stage to defend ourselves and I thank my teammates who helped me in this task. In the end, I gave a hand to our sprinter Cimolai who was fourth
 

”Tomorrow begins the tough race in earnest. It will be an important day for the General Classification. We will see if I have the legs. I do not lack any desire. I hope not to miss the strength in the legs.”

 

Wilco Kelderman unscathed in Paris-Nice crash

Wilco Kelderman crashed in the fifth stage of Paris-Nice, but came away without much damage. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s front man continued and finished in front of the group that sprinted for second place. Sep Vanmarcke took fifth. Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Pro Team), solo, won the day.

 

“If you’re looking at the general classification, then we had a good day,” sports director, Nico Verhoeven said. “Wilco Kelderman crashed with 40 kilometres to go, but only struggled a little bit with a scraped backside. George Bennett and Steven Kruijswijk fell behind because of that crash. The crash took place just before the penultimate climb, so it took a lot of energy to bring back Wilco.”

 

Kelderman didn’t see his crash coming.

 

“The crash happened just in front of us,” he said. “We weren’t able to avoid it, and George and I fell into it. Everything was fine in the end. There wasn’t anything wrong with my bike so I was able to continue immediately. Within one and a half kilometres, I was back in the peloton. From that moment, everything went fine. I rode at the front-end of the race all the time, which came quite easily. I finished this stage with a good feeling.”

 

Kelderman wants to keep that feeling when he starts in Saturday’s queen stage.

 

“Tomorrow is the most important stage of the week,” Verhoeven added. “Whoever takes the yellow jersey will probably win the general classification, as well, when the race ends on Sunday.”

 

Vanmarcke sprints in Paris-Nice to get better car position for the classics.

"I was told yesterday by my team manager Frans Maassen that I should sprint today to get a WorldTour point (the first five riders get points: 6, 4, 2, 1, 1 in a stage in a WorldTour race, ed). That means a lot for the position of the team card in the classics and I'm still working on it,” Vanmarcke told Het Nieuwsblad.

 

”It was fast in the peloton when we hit Ventoux. It was really hard. I continued to ride hard, but still ended up in a chasing group. Again and again I got back and in the final I was in the group with Alexander Kristoff. His team worked hard to get back to the main peloton. They were not really far behind, we saw them ahead but you do need to close that gap and they did. "

 

"In the sprint I made a mistake in the curves and I fell behind. Then I started my sprint in the last corner already and I could gain many positions and finish fifth. I had to start my sprint from a good position. Then I might have finished third, but well, I'm happy with this place. This was a really tough stage. I count more than 3,000 meters of altitude which is a mountain stage in the Tour. My trainer asked me to make a serious effort a few times this week and I did it here. I can be satisfied. Yesterday was an effort of 20 kilometers, today one of 140 kilometers, constantly suffering, with little time for recovery. It was really hard. Normally I wanted again to make a serious effort this weekend in the last two stages, but we need to look at it again tonight yet. Maybe I've been riding too hard and tomorrow there may be no other option than doing it more relaxed.”

 

Vicente Reynes finishes off solid IAM showing in Paris-Nice

IAM Cycling gave a good showing of the jersey throughout the course of the fifth stage for Paris-Nice, which included no fewer than five categorized climbs including a scaling of the Mont Ventoux as far as the Chalet Reynard. Vicente Reynes (7th) and Oliver Naesen (9th) succeeded, nevertheless, in finishing in the top-10 at the end of the stage, which was won with a late solo attack by Alexey Lutsenko (Astana).

 

Matthias Brändle, just as he had in the second stage, the former holder of the hour record determinedly joined in with the day’s main breakaway which included seven other riders. They launched themselves off the front as they were entering the early stages of the first part of the climb up Mont Ventoux.

“We succeeded in bridging back up to the pack of favorites ahead of the final,” commented Vicente Reynes. "I have had good legs since the start of Paris-Nice.  So I decided to try my luck when it came time for the sprint.  Of course I am a bit disappointed with this seventh place, because we all wanted to finish at least on the podium if not win the stage outright.  But I am also reassured by this performance thinking ahead to the upcoming classics.”

 

According Lionel Marie, directeur sportif for IAM Cycling along with Eddy Seigneur, Stefan Denifl decided to abandon the race because he simply has not been physically at his best since the start of the event.

 

There were abrasions to the right arm, and both right and left legs for Oliver Naesen who came down in a mass crash that happened about twenty kilometers from the finish.

 

7, that is the number of climbs that are planned for Saturday’s queen stage, with the day ending at the La Madone d’Utelle, which is 15.3 kilometers long with an average gradient of 5.7%.

 

Dries Devenyns targets top 10 overall in Paris-Nice

 "I feel very good," Dries Devenyns who is 8th overall, told Het Neuwsblad. "Since the start of this season and during this week everything has gone weel. Thanks to my good prologue (where he was eighth, ed) and because the stage to Mont Brouilly was canceled on Wednesday because of the snow, I am in this lovely eighth place.”

 

"Today Schleck crashed on the last climb, I even had to put a foot on the ground. Another rider rode into me and my gear unit broke. I had to change bike. Luckily I had a lot of support fom teammate Oliver Naesen which brought me back to the front. 

 

“Two heavy stages are still on the program, I'll have to go two days à bloc in order to give the maximum. It will not be easy, because I have to compete with riders whose ambition is to ride a good GC in Paris-Nice and who regularly engage in that fight. The better climbers also explored the stages this weekend and know what awaits them. For me this race is not an end, I see this only as a preparation for the classics. I'm going to do my best and who knows if I can finish in the top 10.”

 

Oliver Naesen pleased with great WorldTour debut at Paris-Nice

Oliver Naesen looked back with satisfaction on his ninth place.

 

"I'm happy that I have such a nice debut at WorldTour level," he told Het Nieuwsblad. "I am particularly pleased that I have such a good day in my first World Tour race. This is still Paris-Nice, no race for small riders. It's also nice for me to race here, with this team, I feel that I am well in the group which is fun. "

 

”I'm going to do everything to help my roommate Dries Devenyns during the coming days and help him to get a top 10 in the GC. That would be nice. 

 

”Today was a tough day. I was on the ground in the crash with Frank Schleck and got abrasions on my hip, knee and finger. But I do not mind, I am especially happy that I could bring Dries back. We will fight in the coming days.”

 

Herrada takes mountains jersey, no fracture for Rojas after Paris-Nice crash

Ion Izagirre, the Movistar Team’s main hope overall, did not concede any time.

 

The day’s racing left a bittersweet taste for the Movistar Team. The long break by Jesús Herrada, 1st through the summit of the Mont Ventoux (Chalet Reynard) and staying the front for more than 160km, was counteracted by the crash from José Joaquín Rojas on the descent of the day’s main climb. Moved by ambulance to a hospital nearby, with a wound to his knee and pain in his left wrist, more profound medical checks ruled out serious injuries on the latter. The Cieza-based rider had four stitches put in his leg and reached the team hotel with his right-hand elbow bandaged, also as a consequence of the crash.

 

Lutsenko’s solo victory propels him onto second place overall, with Ion Izagirre now sitting fifth as Michael Matthews remains in the lead, while Herrada inherits the KOM jersey worn by Izagirre until yesterday. Both rankings will be at stake tomorrow during the Queen stage on French soil (177km), including seven categorized climbs and a long mountain-top finish in La Madone d’Utelle (Cat-1).

 

Jesús Herrada said: “Today’s was a stage that already looked hard before the start. We had to make all breaks containing more than five or six riders and we countered that early move. Tinkoff and Sky worked hard not to let us go after the climb and it was hard to keep our gap alive. We were caught in that flat between the last two climbs, and I helped Rubén [Fernandez] and Ion so they could get over the last one in good position. Later on, I chose to save energy for the upcoming, last two stages - plenty of work is still to be done.

 

“The KOM jersey? It wasn’t a goal pre-stage, but once I had made it into the break, I couldn’t let the points just go away. I feel this jersey is already a reward for my work, I don’t see today’s contest going any further for me. There are still two demanding stages left, with tomorrow’s mountain-top finish being the most important one; we’ll give everything so our two leaders remain in contention and hopefully win one of these.”

 

Strong Serge Pauwels ready to attack in tough Paris-Nice weekend

After the final climb of the day was completed, there was just a sole survivor from the original break 1 minute up the road. The peloton had also shrunk to just 30 riders with Serge Pauwels present for Dimension Data.

 

Lutsenko took his chance to bridge across and then pass the sole escapee, to go in pursuit of victory alone. The peloton would regroup to 90 riders as they made their way to the finish but the Astana rider had 50 seconds on the pack and he would not be caught. Pauwels would follow the wheels of the sprinters to cross the line in 14th position.

 

“Today was not an easy day. The break went very early but with this course which included over 3000m of climbing and the ascent of Mont Ventoux, we knew it was going to be a hard day. The peloton broke a couple of times and then after the last climb we were left with only 20 – 25 riders before a big bunch came back in the final. We sprinted behind an Astana rider who got away in the final but for me the most important was that I felt good. There will be opportunities tomorrow and the next day so we will see what we can do,” Serge Pauwels said.

 

Cannondale work for sprint opportunity for Bevin in Paris-Nice

In the final 10 kilometers of Paris-Nice stage five, Lawson Craddock was seen patrolling the front of the peloton. An untimely flat for Craddock with three kilometers to go caused him to miss the wind-up for the sprint, but this is what Craddock had to say:

 

"We have Paddy [Bevin] here in 3rd overall so we're obviously pulling for him. We figured he could be up there in the sprint. He has a good kick to potentially win the stage or the sprint. Paddy crashed earlier in the stage so to come back and show the fight that he did is good motivation for the next couple of days."

 

Alexey Lutsenko's (Astana) solo win gave him a boost in the overall standings to third pushing Bevin to fourth. The battle for the top three placings will be fierce in the final two days.

 

Romain Bardet: Everything will be decided tomorrow

"Everyone today had Saturday's stage in mind,” Romain Bardet told L’Equipe. “Thu the general classification remained on stand-by. Not much happened even though it was a hard stage because of the wind. We know everything is going to be decided on Saturday, it's been five days on the brakes and we are looking forward to the mountains. "

 

"This is the conclusion before the weekend: the Nice weekend will be crucial for the overall classification,” Ag2r sports director Julien Jurdie said. “We still had a difficult day at Paris-Nice including the Ventoux climb to Chalet Reynard but the main favorites of this Paris-Nice stayed calm in the pack. We had expected a little fight in the end but it did not happen. We saw a tired peloton. The final decision will be made tomorrow on La Madone d’Utelle and on Sunday on Col d’Eze. We go for the top five overall, we go into terrainthat is profitable for us. Tomorrow, Romain has a nice card to play, both for the stage and the GC. 
 

”I do not forget that we lost Alexis Gougeard today. He was feverish last night, he was a little better this morning but there was no miracle. He is going to recover and prepare as best as possible."

 

Frank Schleck crashes out of Paris-Nice, Trek focus on Felline

Fränk Schleck was caught up in a nasty crash with 40 kilometers remaining in stage five of Paris-Nice Friday, and although he managed to remount his bike and continue, he abandoned a few kilometers later.

 

"We were going flat out, and I was in the wheel of Laurent [Didier]," explained Schleck. "Suddenly in the road there was a median, and I hit against it with my front wheel. I was sliding along it and tried to correct it, but hit another rider and that was it. I landed hard. I jumped up quickly and checked everything, and I thought I was okay, but I am damaged all over. My hand is hurting so we will go for some Xrays tonight. Unlucky. But that's how it is."

 

It was a punishing stage five with nine kilometers of Mount Ventoux to climb early in the 196-kilometer race, followed by a series of steep uphills that left a decimated peloton to fight out the victory 25-kilometers from the end.

 

Edward Theuns jumped into the early breakaway, joining seven others that built up a substantial lead ahead of the category one rated Ventoux. Theuns, unable to climb with his breakaway companions on the punishing slope of Ventoux, was swept up by the peloton soon afterward, and in the final two back-to-back climbs, he came unglued, as did many tired legs, for good.

 

Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) attacked after the final climb and held off the chasing peloton to solo to the win by 21 seconds.

 

Fabio Felline, who was caught behind a crash on the penultimate climb and found himself in a chasing group, finished with the peloton in 18th place, while Laurent Didier finished in the same time in 76th place.

 

"Today the parcours was difficult," said director Alain Gallopin. "It was good to have Edward in the break, and you never know what can happen, he was the highest on GC and virtual leader on the road at one point. But in the end, it was too difficult for him."

 

With two mountainous days to go in Paris-Nice and Trek-Segafredo out of the overall classification battle, the focus will be on Felline to battle as best he can for a stage result.

 

"The next days we hope to play with Fabio [Felline]," Gallopin continued, "and our Classics guys need to make a hard training," he smiled.

 

Geraint Thomas remains contention at Paris-Nice

Geraint Thomas is well-placed in sixth overall at Paris-Nice after coming through stage five without issue.

 

Despite a close shave on a roundabout with two kilometres to go the Welshman crossed the line safely ensconced at the head of the peloton to maintain a strong general classification foothold.

 

Dropping one place to sixth overall courtesy of the solo stage-winning heroics of Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Thomas is just 23 seconds off the yellow jersey heading into Saturday's mountainous queen stage.

 

Lutsenko elevated himself to second overall after a rousing long-range solo attack paid off in style, with the Kazakh rider leading the peloton home by 21 seconds in Salon-de-Provence.

 

Leader Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) was third over the stripe to add four more bonus seconds to his tally, but saw his lead cut to six seconds.

 

Thomas had to check up to avoid hitting a curb during a fast-paced run-in, with Ben Swift finishing three places ahead in 19th after being unable to find a clear passage in the sprint.

 

Again Team Sky's teamwork shone through, setting a tempo over an early pass of the famous Mont Ventoux. Good position in the bunch paid off with 46km to go as a sizeable crash rippled through the peloton - while Ian Stannard and Nicolas Roche hit the front again late on to steady the ship.

 

A pair of late second-category climbs threatened to shake up proceedings, with Tinkoff turning the screw on the front over the Cote de la Roque d'Antheron. Equal to the task, Sergio Henao and Thomas both climbed well up front, something they'll hope to replicate over the weekend.

 

Tom Dumoulin hesitates after getting a gap in Paris-Nice finale

Team Giant-Alpecin were always at the front of the peloton with Tom Dumoulin riding very strong up the climbs and staying at the front of the peloton with the help of his teammates. Tom Dumoulin finished in the bunch as Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) won the sprint for second place ahead of Michael Matthews (Orica-Greenedge).

 

He is now in 3rd overall, 18” behind Michael Matthews.

 

Tom Dumoulin said: “It was a hard stage, riding at high speed all day. My teammates did a good job in protecting me today and keeping me in at the front of the peloton.”

 

Aike Visbeek gave his reaction after the stage: ”It was a very good all round job from the team again today. It was never going to be an easy stage today. It was good to see that we still had 4 guys in the final with Tom. Tom got a little gap at 3km to go but he hesitated then he had to focused on the sprint.”

 

André Greipel abandons Paris-Nice with rib pain

André Greipel quit Paris-Nice during the fifth stage. The German had too much pain in the ribs, which he injured in a crash at the Volta ao Algarve last month.

 

With two more stages to go, his teammate Tim Wellens is 11th overall at 32 seconds of GC leader Michael Matthews. Tony Gallopin is sixteenth at 37 seconds.

 

Tinkoff and Contador hoping for hard queen stage at Paris-Nice

The disappointment of stage 3 behind the peloton, Paris-Nice had its first taste of the mountains today. With the bigger climbs too far from the finish to make an impact, Rafal Majka and Alberto Contador finished with the peloton after a lone breakaway took the stage win, with no time lost to the GC leaders and ready to take on the big mountains.

 

As the race finally entered the mountains proper, the climbers had the chance to stretch their legs on a stage that over 198km took in the Col de la Madeleine, Mont Ventoux, the Col du Pointu, the Cote de la Roque-d'Antheron and the Col de Seze a little under 30km from the finish in Salon-de-Provence. The more fearsome climbs, however, were far from the finish and ultimately had little impact on the outcome of the stage. This didn’t stop teams from breaking away from the very start of the stage – managing to stay clear of the peloton for much of the day.

 

“The race went as expected today.” said Sports Director, Sean Yates, of the day’s racing. “We were hoping for a hard fight at the start but a seven man break went early and the bunch seemed quite happy with this so they went up the road.”

 

As the peloton approached the Cote de la Roque-d’Antheron, it was clear the Tinkoff riders wanted to shake up the other teams to chase. Yates continues. “The gap kept going up and other teams weren't chasing so we started to chase and brought the gap down. The last climb was quite hard and tricky and some of the sprinters got dropped and had to fight back.”

 

In spite of a long, flat approach to the finish, the solo Lutsenko of Katusha took the win. “When Lutsenko got away you expect these breaks to come back” said Yates “but he was strong today and stayed away, and the sprinters missed out.”

 

Twenty-one seconds behind, the peloton, with Majka, Contador, Trofimov, Poljanski and Kiserlovski, crossed the line. Majka remains in the top ten of the GC, with Contador 6 seconds behind in 17th.

 

Tinkoff’s leader, Alberto Contador, was supported well by his team throughout a tough day.

 

"It was a demanding day in which we spent a lot of energy. Mont Ventoux came a bit early but we climbed with a good rhythm, setting the pace. The stage was very hard, as we also had to pay attention to the wind, but the squad did a good job of protecting me and we finished again safely.”

 

The day’s result was not a disappointment for the Tinkoff Sport Director.

 

“For us our aim was to stay safe at the finish and not lose time ahead of tomorrow, which we're really looking forward to. It's going to be a hard day with not much in the way of straight or flat roads, but the weather is looking OK. We'll be ready to race tomorrow and are looking for a hard stage as Alberto's happy and up for it tomorrow.”

 

Alberto echoed his Sport Director’s comments.

 

“Tomorrow will be an important day, with an uphill finish. We will have to see what we can achieve and whether we can climb up in the GC."

 

At 177km, stage 6 tomorrow is the Race to the Sun’s queen stage. Ending in Nice, the stage takes in no fewer than seven climbs – two of them first category – and is a chance for the GC riders to take some time.

 

Sergio Paulinho did not take the start due to an injury.

 

Richie Porte: It will all come down to tomorrow’s stage

Richie Porte crossed the line safely in the peloton and now sits in tenth on GC, 31 seconds back on race leader Michael Matthews (Orica GreenEDGE).

 

“It was another tough and stressful day in the saddle but the guys were there with me as much as possible. We’ve only got two stages to go and there’s been no real change on GC since day one, so it’s all going to come down to tomorrow’s finish on the Madone,” Porte said.

 

“It was a hard, long stage with a lot of wind at the start. Mont Ventoux is always a tough climb and then the finals stages were quite nervous with steep and narrow roads. The team really worked well, particularly in the technical points where you always need to be in front. We’ll see now for tomorrow,” BMC Racing Team Sports Director Fabio Baldato confirmed.

 

Chris Anker Sørensen had hoped for better legs in Paris-Nice

Fortuneo-Vital Concept failed to achieve a result

 

Chris-Anker Sørensen said: "Before the Mont Ventoux, the pace was moderate but after that we rode hard all day. We stayed grouped with Florian [Vachon], Anthony [Delaplace] and Julien [Loubet]. We worked together in the end. It did not pay off today but it will work out. 

 

“I felt better than yesterday. The cold does not suith me but the worst is behind me. I do not have as good legs as I had hoped but I will try to show myself in the weekend and get a good result.”

 

Julien Loubet added:

 

"We have not joined the break but we stayed together. The bottom of Mont Ventoux is impressive, you can see the snow-capped peak. From a distance it seems that the climb is gradual but it is very steep and without room for recovery. It's a mythical climb and demanding. It hurts the legs. We climbed fast enough, the selection was made ​​with the sprinters. 

 

“It was fast in a technical and twisty finale. I was on the wheels with good feelings. We tried to bring Flo Vachon forward for the sprint. He ends around the twentieth place. "

 

Sports director Sébastien Hinault summed up the day.

 

"Four of our riders were with the best the whole stage. For the first time this week we wer not present in the break but afterwards they were good. They did a good race. There are two stages to give everything.”

 

FDJ domestique takes his chance in the breakaway
There are days like this where the FDJ rider the opportunity to think a little about themselves and Arnaud Courteille enjoyed the chance. Present in a breakaway of eight riders, he was happy even though he quickly realized the peloton would not let him stay away.

 

"We absolutely wanted to place a rider in the breakaway,2 said sports director Franck Pineau,2 with a preference for Kevin Reza because he is fast but Arnaud Courteille got there. Unfortunately, there were two race incidents that played against us. First there was presence in the breakaway of Jesús Herrada (Movistar) who scared the pack, and then, after the Ventoux, the possibility of a returnof  Bouhanni (Cofidis) in a group that was 1'30 '' behind which prompted Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) to ask his teammates to accelerate because he targeted the victory and wanted to prevent the return of the sprinters."

 

Arnaud Courteille crested the Ventoux in second place and he understood quickly that the escapees would not decide the win.

 

"A rider like Arnaud needs to attack from time to time, to show himself on TV because he, like his teammates, are always in the dark, working for a leader. A day like this is going to do him much good. In Salon-de-Provence, Kevin Reza did the sprint for second place, he finished twelfth and I can say that after the abandonment of the two leaders, the guys do what they have to do. We have nothing to lose, so we will take the opportunity to go in the breakaways.Q

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