Team Sky’s idea was not to win the Tour de France‘s fifth stage to Quimper, but it needed to drive the front of the group to avoid trouble in the “challenging” and “tricky” Classics style day.
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Gianni Moscon, Michal Kwiatkowski and Egan Bernal blasted ahead at the front of the strung-out group in the final six kilometres. Bernal, 21, stayed with the leader Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas in a small group on the stage won by Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe).
“Everyone knew that was going to be a tricky finish today, very undulating, never really flat, just up and down all day,” Froome said at the team bus after warming down.
“It was kind of stage where something could go wrong and quite quickly you could lose 30-40 seconds if you were caught out of position. It was really to stay at front and stay on it.”
The race through Brittany featured five categorised climbs before the small uphill kick to Quimper. So many corners and technical the roads, the 204.5-kilometre stage five seemed like a Classic.
“It was tricky at times, a bit like a Classic, but the boys rode very well,” Thomas explained.
Sky are aiming for a fifth Tour de France win with Chris Froome. Already, Froome was caught on the back foot with a crash on stage one and he lost almost a minute. They are always ultra-vigilant, but now they cannot afford to let their guard down in the demanding first week.
“It was narrow roads, up and down, quite a lot of climbing. It was a tough day,” continued Thomas.
“Today there was more a chance of someone being caught out than not having the legs. It was more a case of staying at the front than not having any mishaps.”
Froome added: “Definitely, you always want to stay safe and today was one of these days with the narrow, twisty and up and down roads, if you are too back then it’s easy to have a split. I’m impressed with how we rode the stage.”
Sky’s impressive train overtook the work of Quick-Step Floors and BMC Racing. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) stayed in yellow another day, but Classics and sprint star Peter Sagan gained a second stage victory and more points towards the green jersey.
A similar day comes Thursday before the sprinters have a chance again on Friday. The 181 kilometres stage six covers the Mûr de Bretagne once with 16 kilometres to race and again for the finish. In 2011, Cadel Evans edged out Alberto Contador for the stage victory at the top of the two-kilometre climb.
“Tomorrow is similar again, tougher finish up Mûr de Bretagne, it’ll be interesting,” said Thomas.
“It’ll be interesting,” Froome added. “The Mûr de Bretagne twice, a place where we always see action there. I’m looking forward to it, I always prefer those days to the fast flat days.”