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Drama over the Paris-Roubaix cobbles as defending champion abandons race

Lars Boom of Belkin has won a dramatic Stage 5 of the Tour de France at Arenberg-Porte de Hainaut on an afternoon when Team Sky’s Chris Froome’s defence of his title came to an end as he abandoned the race after crashing twice. Race leader Vincenzo Nibali of Astana, winner of Stage 2 to Sheffield on Sunday, put more than two minutes into the man who is now his chief rival for the overall title, Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador.

It’s too early to say whether Nibali, a past winner of the Vuelta and Giro d'Italua, can emulate the Spaniard in winning all three Grand Tours – Contador is one of only five riders to have done so – but the Italian now appears in control of the race.

Nibali rolled across the line in third place along with his team mate Jakob Fuglsang,who took second, both of them 19 seconds down on Boom but, crucially, around two and a half minutes ahead of Contador. The two Astana riders had got away from a select front group together with team mate Lieuwe Westra with more than 12 kilometres of the 152.5km stage from Ypres.

Only Boom was able to go with them from a select front group of around 15 riders which contained two of the world’s finest Classics riders – Trek Factory Racing’s Fabian Cancellara and Cannondale Pro Cycling’s Peter Sagan, who in finishing fourth tightened his grip on the points jersey he has won for the past two years.

The Belkin rider Boom, a former world cyclo-cross champion – a useful background, given today’s rain and mud – and also a top-ten finisher at Paris-Roubaix, made his stage-winning move with around 5 kilometres remaing.

For Astana, however, the main goal instead of chasing the Dutchman down was for Nibali – one of the top GC riders when it comes to racing in the wet – to put as much time as possible into potential overall rivals, and Contador in particular, and they achieved it in style.

By the time the first of seven cobbled sections – none had been planned, but organisers decided to cut two of them on safety grounds this morning – arrived with a little under 70km remaining, Froome was no longer in the equation.

The Sky rider, nursing injuries from his crash yesterday, abandoned shortly before the cobbles of the Carrefour de l’Arbre section following his second crash on today’s rain-soaked roads as Cannondale forced the pace ahead of the first stretch of pavé.

That Team Sky’s efforts are now firmly behind Richie Porte was made clear by Geraint Thomas, a top ten finisher on the cobbles of both Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders this year, staying back to shepherd the Australian rather than being given the okay to go for the win himself.

There are still two and a half weeks of racing to go, but it’s Nibali, following his win in Yorkshire and his stellar performance today, who emerges from what had been seen as the two key stages of the opening week in the best shape of all those who will now fight for the vacant crown.

Reaction

Stage winner and former world CX champion Lars Boom

This was an epic stage! For many years, I've dreamt of a wet Paris-Roubaix and I got what I wanted today at the Tour de France, exactly nine years after a Dutchman won a stage [Pieter Weening in Gerardmer], so it's all very very special. This is my most beautiful win.

It rained all day and the roads were extremely slippery. It was a crazy race with all the crashes but I stayed at the front, out of trouble. After the cobbled section number 8, the main group split and I said to my team-mate Sep Vanmarcke to go hard and split it more. Both of us rode away but Nibali was in a really good shape and he chose the right tactic.

This morning, when I saw the weather, I smiled a bit. I was relaxed and confident all day. In the last corner, when I looked back and realized that I was going to win, I was shaking my head because it was an amazing feeling. I've been unlucky earlier this year. I had a broken elbow. This win is what I needed for my career.

Race leader Vincenzo Nibali

I'm delighted with the outcome of today's stage. It was a really stressful day and a very hard race. I wasn't thinking of the yellow jersey. I was just focused on riding the best I could. I'm in good shape. I've prepared for this particular stage but the conditions today were very different from those I experienced when I came and ride on the cobbles. It was also a very different feeling as when we rode the ‘strade bianche' at the Giro d'Italia.

Here I managed to guide my bike much better. It was extremely slippery. I've lost some team-mates who slipped but at the end, it was still a great team work with Jakob Fuglsang and Lieuwe Westra who went in a breakaway to be able to help me in the finale as he fantastically did. It went all well.

I didn't think I would distance Contador so much today. But I'll keep my feet on the ground. I want to remain quiet. It's still a long way away with lots of mountains and everybody has seen today that crashes can happen.

Alberto Contador, who lost two and a half minutes to Nibali

It was a complicated day. We lost some time and we're certainly going to try and get some back in the days ahead. But the most important thing if that we finished the day without crashing. We now have to recuperate well.

 

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

15 comments

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cub [86 posts] 2 years ago
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Stick thin no muscle guys crash repeatedly at over 30mph, get back up immediately to put out more power than any normal person ever could.

Worlds best paid, well built athletes fall over running after ball, stay down face in hands and wait for stretcher.

The men in Lycra are the real hard men, what a cruel hard sport.

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notfastenough [3679 posts] 2 years ago
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"Worlds best paid, well built athletes fall over running after ball, roll around like they've been shot, stay down face in hands and wait for stretcher."

There, fixed it for you.

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mcvittees73 [20 posts] 2 years ago
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From what we saw in the Daupiné ~2:30 isn't going to be much of a cushion for Nibali unless he or Contador have gained / lost a considerable ammount of form.

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cub [86 posts] 2 years ago
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I'll add, if Wiggins was there:
He makes the final selection with Nibali, attacks on the final cobbles, time trials to finish, gets 1 min over Nibali so 3 over Contador, we get to see him defend it, maybe lose it, then win it again on the final TT.

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daddyELVIS [655 posts] 2 years ago
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cub wrote:

I'll add, if Wiggins was there:

....he'd be stick thin, leading to illness after riding in rain today, and withdraws part way through next stage.

Who knows what would have happened!?

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ajmarshal1 [411 posts] 2 years ago
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cub wrote:

I'll add, if Wiggins was there:
He makes the final selection with Nibali, attacks on the final cobbles, time trials to finish, gets 1 min over Nibali so 3 over Contador, we get to see him defend it, maybe lose it, then win it again on the final TT.

Or climbed off before he even saw a cobble with a cold or a hurty knee. Wiggins is also known to crash out of a TdF. It happens.

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Beaufort [270 posts] 2 years ago
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This is not about BW.

Well done Boom, showing 'em how it's done. Alberto looked like he might cry in the rain, on the pave. Whether you like Nibali or not, he stuck it up AC today.

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ajmarshal1 [411 posts] 2 years ago
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Beaufort wrote:

This is not about BW.

Well done Boom, showing 'em how it's done. Alberto looked like he might cry in the rain, on the pave. Whether you like Nibali or not, he stuck it up AC today.

Nibali rode it like a God. He's lit it up so far. Can't wait to see how he's climbing at the minute.

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giobox [356 posts] 2 years ago
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daddyELVIS wrote:
cub wrote:

I'll add, if Wiggins was there:

....he'd be stick thin, leading to illness after riding in rain today, and withdraws part way through next stage.

Who knows what would have happened!?

Wiggins would be eaten alive in this year's edition. Lowest number of individual time trial miles in a TdF since the 1950s. Couple that with Contador and Nibali in the mountains, and Contador was looking very strong in the Dauphine. I'm not sure Sky will be regretting their decision not to send him all that much, for all the difference it might make.

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I love my bike [145 posts] 2 years ago
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Maybe Froome shouldn't ride so much through dead straight tunnels in the dry?

Anyway, landing on soft grass doesn't compare to hard roads, so wishing him a speedy recovery.

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Simon E [2720 posts] 2 years ago
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Lars Boom must surely be Thor Hushovd's lovechild.

What an stage! Soaking wet, 6 cobbled sections, an average speed of 47 km/h! Faces etched with effort and caked in mud, it surely deserves the description of 'epic'. I have never seen so many riders fall. Chapeau to every rider, team helper, marshal, cameraman et al who stood or rode in those conditions.

Disappointed for Froomey but he'll be back. Great riding by G to put Porte in a good position. Nibali and Astana show 'em how it should be done, none of us thought he could float over the cobbles like that  13

It's shaping up to be a great race.  16

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Shades [294 posts] 2 years ago
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The organisers must be really chuckling to themselves. That stage just turned the whole race on it's head. Opportunities galore for other riders and a chance to really raise their profile. Chris Boardman was hugely supportive of the decision to include the cobbles in the ITV 'post-mortem'.

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Shades [294 posts] 2 years ago
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Just remembered a clip of Lars Boom in the Tour a few years ago. There was a close-up of him riding along with an 8" dribble swinging in the breeze that refused to detach itself. Possibly put me off my dinner!  31

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redmeat [149 posts] 2 years ago
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cub wrote:

I'll add, if Wiggins was there:
He makes the final selection with Nibali, attacks on the final cobbles, time trials to finish, gets 1 min over Nibali so 3 over Contador, we get to see him defend it, maybe lose it, then win it again on the final TT.

lol, no.

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daddyELVIS [655 posts] 2 years ago
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He'll be Sky's classics man next season!