Astana’s Fabio Aru has won Stage 5 of the Tour de France at La Planche des Belles Filles, the first true summit finish of this year’s race as attention switched from the departures through injury of Mark Cavendish and disqualification of Peter Sagan to the battle for the overall victory.
Team Sky’s Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, meanwhile, have swapped places at the top of the general classification, with the defending champion back in the yellow jersey.
It’s a quarter of a century since a Category 1 climb featured this early in the race, and nearly four decades since there was a summit finish on one, and this particular ascent has developed a reputation for being a strong indication of who will be there or thereabouts come Paris.
The climb made its debut in the 2012 Tour de France when Froome won on his way to finishing runner-up to team mate Bradley Wiggins, and was used again in 2014 when the stage went to that year’s eventual winner, Vincenzo Nibali.
Early on in the 160.5km stage from Vittel stage, an eight-man breakaway got clear, and what a group it was too packed with star names, including Philippe Gilbert of Quick-Step Floors, Direct Energie’s Thomas Voeckler and Dimension Data rider Edvald Boasson Hagen.
They were joined by AG2R-La Mondiale’s Jan Bakelants, Pierre-Luc Perichon of Fortuneo, FDJ’s Mickael Delage, Thomas De Gendt of Lotto Soudal and Cannondale-Drapac’s Dylan van Baarle.
Bakelants and Gilbert led the race onto the final, 5.9-kilometre climb having got away from their fellow escapees but the main group was closing fast with Team Sky now leading the chase after BMC Racing, working for Richie Porte, had forced the pace for most of the day.
With 2.4km remaining and the leading pair long caught, Aru attacked from the group led by the Team Sky trio of Mikel Nieve, Thomas and Froome.
Lying 52 seconds off the race lead overnight, the Italian national champion quickly built a quarter of a minute’s advantage while behind him the overall contenders’ group was blown apart as Orica-Scott’s Simon Yates launched an attack with 2 kilometres to go.
Aru, who now lies third overall 14 seconds off the race lead, would not be caught, winning by 16 seconds from Quick Step Floors rider Dan Martin.
Froome was a further 20 seconds back as he took the yellow jersey from Thomas, who drops to second overall, 12 seconds behind his team mate.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.