Greg van Avermaet will don the prestigious Yellow Jersey at the Tour de France for the very first time in his career after emerging victorious from a gruelling stage five on Wednesday (6 July). The BMC Racing rider rose to establish a lead of more than five minutes over nearest challengers Julian Alaphilippe and Alejandro Valverde in the general classification after his fine individual breakaway en route from Limoges to the mountainous ski resort of Le Lorian.
After an opening four days that showcased the talents of sprinters such as Mark Cavendish, previous leader Peter Sagan and Marcel Kittel, stage five, the third longest of all 21 at 216km, was a chance for the climbers to flourish with six category climbs in total. With all 198 riders having survived the first four stages unscathed for the first time in 11 years, an early breakaway formed consisting of nine competitors in Van Avermaet, Thomas De Gendt, Andriy Grivko, Rafal Majka, Cyril Gautier, Serge Pauwels, Bartosz Huzarski, Romain Sicard and Florian Vachon.
The eventual winner then sat in a three-man band alongside Grivko and De Gendt, establishing a healthy lead of approximately 15 minutes over the peloton. It later became a two-horse race with his fellow Belgian, which Van Avermaet won by two minutes and 34 seconds after launching a decisive solo attack with 17.4km to go. It is the second stage win of his career to date and a first since outsprinting Sagan to the post in Rodez last year.
Majka finished third, while Joaquim Rodriguez and Ireland's Daniel Martin rounded off the top five. Two-time winner Chris Froome crossed the line in ninth and the Team Sky favourite now sits fifth overall, five minutes and 17 seconds off the lead. Lotto-Soudal'sDe Gendt earned the combativity award and also takes the King of the Mountains polka dot jersey from compatriot Jasper Stuyven.
Giro d'Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali lost considerable ground on a disappointing day to come in 68th, while the injury-plagued Alberto Contador fought manfully before falling away somewhat towards the end of the stage and finishing 30th. They now lie 50th and 25th respectively in the general classification. Nairo Quintana came in just behind Froome in 15th and is positioned seventh overall. Stage six on Thursday involves a 190.5km ride from Arpajon-sur-Cere to the town of Montauban.