Alaphilippe keeps yellow with three days to go
Stage 5 of the Tour of California – which had Maxime Bouet and Nikolas Maes in the break – didn't brought any changes to the GC.
212 kilometers from Lodi to South Lake Tahoe and four categorized climbs on the menu made up for another tough, aggressive and hard to control stage at the US race, so it came as no surprise when a massive breakaway got clear and opened a lead of five minutes. Among the 18 riders at the front were also two of Etixx – Quick-Step, Maxime Bouet and Nikolas Maes, the Frenchman – who won the day's first intermediate sprint – being at one point virtual leader in the overall standings.
Not many teams were willing to chase behind that escape, only BMC and Trek-Segafredo working to reduce the gap in the second part of what was the final mountain stage of this edition. The difficult terrain and countless attacks at the front eventually led to three riders taking off and going all the way to the finish – Xabier Zandio (Team Sky), Adam De Vos (Rally Cycling) and Toms Skujins (Cannondale) – the latter proving out to be the most explosive on the last 200 meters and notching the win.
The pack, led by Julian Alaphilippe, came to the line 43 seconds later, the 23-year-old Frenchman finishing seventh and holding onto the yellow jersey with just three days left to go at the 11th edition of the Tour of California. On the eve of the 20-km long individual time trial in Folsom, Julian – who claimed the victory on the queen-stage of the race – is 22 seconds clear of Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo), with George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) rounding out the podium, a further 15 seconds behind.
Alaphilippe, who's riding the US event for the second season in a row, talked at the press conference about the stage and his expections for the next day: "Our tactic was to send two guys at the front, and that worked perfect for us, as we didn't have to pull in the peloton. The stage was tough and the hot temperatures meant that everyone suffered today. On the last climb, I watched my rivals closely, as I didn't want to lose any time. Tomorrow, an ITT will be in store and everyone knows that it's not my speciality, but I'll give it my all and continue to enjoy this beautiful yellow jersey."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele