Despite losing two riders from the top three of the general classification, Jumbo-Visma remain in control of Paris-Nice as Primož Roglič stepped into the yellow jersey at the end of stage five.
Wout van Aert and Christophe Laporte were both dropped on the the Col de la Mûre, the final categorised climb of the day, and Roglič looked reasonably isolated. However, he hung in there to maintain his 39-second advantage over Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco), his nearest challenger.
With more climbing tests to come, the race is yet to be decided, but Roglič's exploits in the first half of the race ensure that he is the one in control as the riders head further south.
Speaking after the stage, the Slovenian said Thursday was another "hard day", but that he was getting into the right rhythm.
"Today was a hard day again, like every day in Paris-Nice," he said. "And there are more big mountains ahead. It’s a hard race but the guys did a great job all day and I could keep with the best climbers in the end.
"I don’t know how it will go tomorrow, and then there are two hard days over the weekend, especially the last one as I’ve experienced last year. There’s a lot of racing coming up and I will do my best. I’m getting into my rhythm and I’m positive."
Last year Roglič lead from stage four but ended up finishing 15th overall after crashing on the final day of the race. He will be hoping for better fortune in the final days of this year's edition.
For that, he might need to have more help from his team-mates. While Rohan Dennis lasted deep into stage five, showing the domestique form he showed at the Giro d'Italia two years ago, others like Steven Kruijswijk, Nathan Van Hooydonck and Van Aert could not keep up with the pace.
Arkéa-Samsic were the ones initially pushing hard, in an attempt to set up Nairo Quintana, and Ineos Grenadiers also sent Dani Martínez up the road late on in an attempt to shake things up.
There are four riders within one minute of Roglič: Simon Yates, Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies), Martinez and Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe), with Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) at 1-11.
The highest altitudes of the week are still to come, so we might see more GC action in the coming days.
Van Aert said it was the Arkéa acceleration that ended his day, but said his easy ride today might allow him to help Roglič more in the coming stages.
"It was definitely a hard day," he said. "We had a hard time with the team to control a strong breakaway. And then Arkéa accelerated on the final climb, I felt it in my legs and the head made the decision to take it a bit easier to the finish. It can be an advantage, so I can help Primož [Roglič] over the weekend, and I have the Classics on the back of my mind."
The Belgian's mind is very much on the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, both of which are a few more weeks away. Stage five's 98th place, however, was the first time that he has finished a road race outside of the top-three in 2022.
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