Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) showed off his climbing ability once again to attack alone from almost 40km out and claim stage five of Paris-Nice.
The American dropped his breakaway companions on the final categorised climb of the day, the Col de la Mûre, and quickly extended his lead to 40 seconds over the top, before it got to over one minute on the final climb.
Behind, Harm Vanhoucke (Lotto Soudal), Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar Team) and Franck Bonnamour (B&B Hotels - KTM) could not bring McNulty back, despite the numbers being in their favour. Bonnamour took second with Jorgenson in third, meaning two Americans finished on the podium.
It is the third solo victory of the year for the UAE rider, after his exploits in Mallorca and in France earlier this season, proving his promise once again. It was, however, his first WorldTour victory of his career.
Meanwhile, Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) lost the race lead behind, being dropped from the peloton on the same climb that McNulty attacked on. Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) took the yellow jersey from his teammate, with few big changes between the main GC riders.
How it happened
The big climbs finally came on stage five of Paris-Nice, but it was not the day’s altitude gain that was the talk at the start of the day, but the sheer amount of abandons.
18 riders did not take the start on Thursday, and more left during the stage, partly due to illness sweeping through the peloton.
Once the stage actually got underway, it took over ten kilometres for the break to be established, with ten riders going clear. Rubén Fernández (Cofidis), Laurent Pichon (Arkéa Samsic), Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ), Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates), Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar Team), Harm Vanhoucke (Lotto Soudal), Owain Doull (EF Education-EasyPost), Franck Bonnamour (B&B Hotels - KTM), Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies) and Michael Mørkøv (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team) made up the day’s break.
While the peloton was controlled, the break tackled the categorised climbs up the road. Madouas took the points over the top of the first few, meaning he would climb into the polka-dot jersey at the end of the day. At times the time gap ticked up to just under seven minutes.
McNulty attacked from the break on the Col de la Mûre with 38.8km to go, the final classified climb of the day, and quickly extended his lead to over 40 seconds over the top. Madouas, Jorgenson, Vanhoucke, Bonnamour and Turgis were the chasers left following him.
Jumbo-Visma looked to have things controlled for race leader Wout van Aert and his teammate Primož Roglič, but things seemed to come apart a little on that climb, as Van Aert was dropped quite early on.
Arkéa-Samsic rode hard for Nairo Quintana, which caused a few climbers to head out the back surprisingly early on. They included Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), but the main GC riders still stuck together up the climb.
Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) attacked out of the bunch, but never threatened to properly escape the leading climbers.
On the descent, McNulty had around 1:10 on the chasers, who had been depleted to just Madouas, Jorgenson and Bonnamour.
The final climb of the day was uncategorised, but was still a test for those up the road and in the peloton. The gap stood at just under six minutes heading into the final 20km, while there was a seven minute gap between the peloton and Van Aert.
McNulty had already won two races this season, the Trofeo Calvia and the Faun-Ardèche Classic, both of which he won from a solo attack as well. While the trio behind worked hard, the gap simply would not budge, with the American looking set for victory.
On the final climb, Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies) and his team looked to be working to set the Frenchman up for a late attack. Roglič was isolated as Rohan Dennis (Jumbo-Visma) was dropped as the pace increased. Latour attempted to get away but was brought back by Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers).
Dani Martínez (Ineos Grenadiers) then attempted to get away, quickly establishing a gap of about ten seconds. Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) then put in a quick attack, but failed to distance his rivals. The next to try something was Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe), but he was brought back before Roglič then finally decided to attack, but again returned to what was left of the bunch quite quickly.
Both Martínez and Martin, who were still up the road, were eventually caught by the chasing bunch.
The GC action quietened down, and McNulty comfortably rode the final descent to victory, followed by Bonnamour and then Jorgenson.
The virtual yellow jersey group crossed the line all together, with Roglič taking over the race lead from his teammate Van Aert.
Results: Paris-Nice 2022, stage five (188.8km)
1. Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates, in 4-53-30
2. Franck Bonnamour (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM, at 1-58
3. Matteo Jorgenson (USA) Movistar, same time
4. Harm Vanhoucke (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at 2-30
5. Laurent Pichon (Fra) Arkéa-Samsic, at 4-01
6. Anthony Turgis (Fra) TotalEnergies, at 4-02
7. Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 4-57
8. Owain Doull (GBr) EF Education-EasyPost, same time
9. Pierre Latour (Fra) TotalEnergies, at 5-43
10. Quentin Pacher (Fra) Groupama FDJ, same time
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE Five
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, in 16-50-28
2. Simon Yates (GBr) BikeExchange-Jayco, at 39s
3. Pierre Latour (Fra) TotalEnergies, at 41s
4. Dani Martínez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at 56
5. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 59
6. Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-11
7. Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team DSM, at 1-26
8. Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain-Victorious, at 1-35
9. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkéa-Samsic, at 1-45
10. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Cofidis, at 2-01
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