Greg Van Avermaet took a great breakaway win to also open up a sizeable lead in the general classification

A surprising breakaway win?

Greg Van Avermaet celebrates winning Stage 5 and taking the Yellow Jersey at the 2016 Tour de France (Watson)

Greg Van Avermaet celebrates winning Stage 5 and taking the Yellow Jersey at the 2016 Tour de France (Watson)

The fact that the breakaway won the stage wasn’t much of a surprise – Dan Martin called it before the stage – but the fact that the winner was Greg Van Avermaet was a little surprising.

The Belgian Classics specialist only sat 18 seconds down in the general classification after four stages, and not only was he allowed out in the break, but he was given a 15-minute lead at one point.

Tinkoff won’t be too sad about losing the yellow, given that they didn’t really work much before Peter Sagan dropped off the back of the peloton to rest his legs.

But it could have been a chance for someone like Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick Step) to take yellow for a few days, or local favourite Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale). Neither team looked particularly bothered about bringing the breakaway back all day.

Movistar injected some pace to see the advantage fall from over 10 minutes to nearly five, but it was too little, too late.

Riders like Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana and the other five-star contenders won’t be too worried about Van Avermaet’s new five-minute lead, which may last until Sunday’s stage nine in Andorra, but certainly this was a missed opportunity for some teams.

Bye bye Bertie?

Alberto Contador crosses the line on stage five of the Tour de France (Sunada)

Alberto Contador crosses the line on stage five of the Tour de France (Sunada)

Not a hammer blow by any means, but Alberto Contador struggled again as the roads headed uphill and the pace sped up in the final kilometres.

The Spaniard, two time winner of the Tour, was ailing from two crashes in the first two days and had already lost over a minute, with another 33 seconds dropped on the final climb today.

He won’t give up, that’s not the Contador way, but getting back into the general classification hunt will be all-but impossible from here.


Watch: Tour de France 2016 stage five highlights


Is Rafal Majka warming up for the Pyrénées?

Rafal Majka (Sunada)

Rafal Majka (Sunada)

With Rafal Majka in the original nine-man breakaway this stage looked to have his name written all over it.

The Polish champion contrived to lose 17 minutes over the first four stages, presumably in an attempt to get a free pass from the peloton into a breakaway of his choosing.

But the nine-man breakaway on stage five couldn’t work together and Majka was one of those consigned to the second group on the road. Despite being a bigger group, the second bunch couldn’t work its way back to Van Avermaet, Thomas De Gendt and Andrey Grivko up the road.

Maybe he’s not in peak condition yet, but Majka put in the hard yards on the road to get his legs ready for another lung-busting escape in the Pyrénées like last year.

The Tourmalet is back on stage eight – one of the climbs Majka soloed over last year to take an impressive win. More of the same this year? With his team leader struggling, Majka could be given a free ticket to chase stage wins again in the mountains.

Nibali won’t win the Tour

Vincenzo Nibali on stage 4 of the 2016 Tour de France (Watson)

Vincenzo Nibali on stage 4 of the 2016 Tour de France (Watson)

The other day we asked whether Vincenzo Nibali was secretly aiming for Tour de France glory. On stage five the question was answered pretty comprehensively as a ‘no’.

Contador found the same thing last year, having won the Giro d’Italia in May, but it’s actually really hard to peak again for the Tour de France.

But Contador lasted a bit longer than this in his attempt at the double before consigning himself to defeat. Not that Nibali was going for the double, of course.

Like last year, Nibali cracked on the first mountain stage, although unlike last year this was on a category two climb, not a lengthy summit finish.

The pressure is now truly on Fabio Aru, who looked comfortable alongside Froome and co in the final kilometres, with Nibali maybe going for a stage win later in the race.

Sagan loses yellow, but keeps hold of green

Peter Sagan on stage 5 of the 2016 Tour de France

Peter Sagan on stage 5 of the 2016 Tour de France

Peter Sagan was never expecting to keep the yellow jersey past stage five, but it doesn’t mean we won’t be seeing a lot more of him on the podium in this race.

Sagan isn’t bad in the hills, but when there’s a sprint stage to contest on Thursday there was no point in busting a gut to keep up with the leaders just to hold on to yellow for a few days.

But Sagan still made a trip to the podium to collect the points jersey again – a competition that he leads by four points from Mark Cavendish.

Stage six may be another one for him to target victory, but the flat finish will probably favour the pure speed guys once more, assuming they’ve all recovered from their first taste of mountains.