The peloton rolled in well down on the breakaway riders, with Michal Kwiatkowski losing red

Simon Clarke (EF Education-Drapac) won stage five of the Vuelta a España after out-sprinting Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Alessandro De Marchi (BMC Racing) from the breakaway.

The three had been part of a 25-man breakaway which finally went away after more than an hour of racing, and managed to go clear as a trio with around 45km left to ride.

They managed to hold off chasers behind to stay clear over the final climb and down the descent, eventually arriving to the finish together. De Marchi, who had put in a huge amount of effort to form a break earlier in the day, was unable to really contest the sprint between them, with Clarke getting ahead of Mollema and holding him off towards the line.

The Australian took his second career Grand Tour stage win after taking victory on stage four of the Vuelta in 2012.

The overall lead changed hands after stage five, with Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) losing the red jersey to Frenchman Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) who was in the chasing group that finished eight seconds behind Simon Clarke.

With the peloton finishing 4-55 down, the 3-46 Molard sat behind in the overall was overturned and he now leads the general classification ahead of Kwiatkowski with 1-01.

There were no other major changes at the top of the GC with no attacks between the main favourites.

Rudy Molard in red after stage five of the 2018 Vuelta a España (Sunada)

How it happened

The 188.7km stage began at a blistering pace, with the peloton in no mood to let an early breakaway form with ease. The riders covered almost 48km in the first hour, with flurries of attacks from riders trying to get out and away.

It took until after the climb of the Alto de Orgiva with around 130km to go that Stephane Rossetto (Cofidis), Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates) and Floris De Tier (LottoNL-Jumbo) were able to get a few seconds, with riders trying to attack to bridge to them from the bunch.

By around 123km to go, the break had grown to to 25 riders, with the pace in the peloton beginning to subside.

The riders to join the three out front included Alessandro De Marchi (BMC), Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe), Maxime Monfort (Lotto-Soudal), Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ), Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott), Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo), Mikel Iturria (Euskadi-Murias), Franco Pellizotti (Bahrain-Merida), Alexandre Geniez (Ag2r La Mondiale), Davide Villella (Astana Pro Team), Sepp Kuss (LottoNL-Jumbo), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Jonathan Lastra (Caja Rujal), Andrey Amador (Movistar), Jai Hindley (Sunweb), José Mendes (Burgos-BH), Brent Bookwalter (BMC), Simon Clarke (EF Education First-Drapac), Merhawi Kudus (Dimension Data), Maurits Lammertink (Katusha-Alpecin), Pavel Kochetkov (Katusha) and Hermann Pernsteiner (Bahrain-Merida).

They quickly began to eke out their advantage, holding just over three minutes heading into the final 100km.

With the race beginning tick down quickly, it was clear a number of riders would try to attack from the large breakaway group to get away. Rosetto and De Marchi were the first riders to go clear with 65km to go, putting 50 seconds into the break group and stretching the gap to over six minutes over the Team Sky led peloton.

De Marchi clearly felt good, as just 20km later he was attacking his breakaway companion Rosetto, going clear alone before Bauke Mollema and Simon Clarke were able to bridge across.

That trio then began to work well, and despite counter-attacks from riders trying to get across, they built up a gap of 1-40 into the chasing group.

Davide Villella made the best effort at trying to bridge to the front three, and Mollema, who had punctured 4km from the top of the final category two climb – the summit of which came with around 27km to go – had to make a big effort to get back to the front. De Tier was then able to make it to Villella, and they pursued the front trio who continued with around 45 seconds advantage.

Molard also then managed to bridge to that chasing group, and he sat in the virtual red jersey as they took on the descent, with still over five minutes advantage on the peloton and just 3-46 down on Michal Kwiatkowski in GC. Sky seemed content to let the Frenchman take the overall lead ahead of some transition stages.

As they descended and approached the flat to the finish, the situation remained more or less the same, with the chasing three losing ground to over a minute to the leaders.

Up front, the final 6km saw the three riders begin to cat-and-mouse, with two token attacks coming from De Marchi first with 4.4km to go, and Clarke 3.2km to go, but with nothing sticking.

They slowed so much the three chasers came within 10 seconds of them, and it all came down to a sprint in the end. De Marchi led it out, with Clarke behind him and Mollema last.

It was the Trek-Segafredo man that jumped first from behind though, but there was nothing he could do as Clarke unleashed his effort to go clear and take victory across the line.

The peloton then rolled in calmly at 4-55 down, with the overall lead changing hands from Kwiatkowski to Molard by 1-01.

The Vuelta a España continues on Thursday with a probable sprint finish to the 155.7km stage from Huércal-Overa to San Javier.

Update: Rudy Molard handed 20 second time penalty for illegal feed in the final 20km.

Results

Vuelta a España 2018, stage five: Granada to Roquetas de Mar (188.7km)

1 Simon Clarke (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac, in 4-36-07
2 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
3 Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) BMC Racing Team, all same time
4 Davide Villella (Ita) Astana Pro Team, at 8s
5 Floris De Tier (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo
6 Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, all same time
7 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Lotto Soudal, at 1-58
8 Jonathan Lastra Martinez (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA, at 2-00
9 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
10 Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data, all same time

Others

23 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky, at 4-55

Overall classification after stage five

1 Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, in 18-27-20
2 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky, at 41s
3 Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 48
4 Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 51
5 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team, 53
6 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 1-06
7 Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida, at 1-11
8 Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, at 1-14
9 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team, at same time
10 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 1-18