Greg Van Avermaet won stage five of the 2016 Tour de France from a solo move that also gained him the overall lead. He now sits over five minutes ahead of Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick Step) in second.
The BMC Racing rider had been part of a nine-man breakaway group that went away from the peloton early in the day and was given a huge margin.
Initially riding with the larger group and then forging out with Andriy Grivko (Astana) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Van Avermaet was favourite for the day as he started the stage best placed on GC.
Watch: Tour de France 2016 stage five highlights
De Gendt came over the finish line second and earned the polka dot jersey for his efforts on the stage’s climbs.
Further back, there was some movement among the overall contenders as Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) went backwards on an earlier climb and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) looked to be struggling towards the end of the stage.
Nibali’s loss of around 13 minutes sees him drop out of contention but Contador’s deficit could be recoverable, assuming he shakes off the injuries caused by crashes in earlier stages.
Riders in the early breakaway were: Rafal Majka (Tinkoff), Cyril Gautier (ag2r La Mondiale), Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data), Bartosz Huzarski (Bora-Argon 18), Romain Sicard (Direct Energie) and Florian Vachon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Grivko, Van Avermaet and De Gendt.
At its maximum the gap the smaller Van Avermaet group held over the peloton was 14-20, which made it clear that the day’s winner would come from one the the early escapees.
Overnight leader Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) was dropped on a climb 30.4km from the finish, but more surprising was Nibali’s inability to stay with the pace over the relatively small climbs.
Any time loss for the Italian would solve any questions over leadership at Astana – in Fabio Aru’s favour – and also open up the chance of seeing Nibali going for a long one in search of stage glory later in the race.
Van Avermaet went away from De Gendt with 17.5km to go and pushed on for stage glory.
Movistar did much of the early pace making and their fast pace saw many riders go out the back of the peloton. Team Sky came to the front and took up lead duties of what soon became a very select group.
Assured of both the stage win and the yellow jersey, Van Avermaet was rightly cautious on the technical, narrow final descent.
Behind him things livened up as Romain Bardet (ag2r La Mondiale) used his local knowledge to up the pace in the favourites group, but he couldn’t get away from the likes of Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
Stage six has a fairly hilly first half but if things come back together in time we could be on for a bunch sprint. If the likes of Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quick Step) are unable to get back on terms then we could see Sagan going for the win to make up for his loss of the yellow jersey on stage five.
Tour de France 2016, stage five: Limoges to Le Lioran, 216km
1. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing in 5-31-36
2. Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto-Soudal at 2-34
3. Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff at 5-04
4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha at 5-04
5. Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx-QuickStep at 5-07
6. Bartosz Huzarski (Pol) Bora-Argon 18
7. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx-QuickStep
8. Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange
9. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky
10. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at same time
General classification after stage five
1. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx-QuickStep at 5-11
3. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar at 5-12
4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha at 5-14
5. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 5-17
6. Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Alpecin at 5-17
7. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 5-17
8. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 5-17
9. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Cannondale-Drapac at 5-17
10. Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx-QuickStep at 5-17