Alaphilippe spends quiet day in yellow at Paris-Nice
Marcel Kittel finished the stage in seventh place, last flat one ahead of a week-end in which the climbers will take center stage.
Six men booked a ticked for the main breakaway of stage 5, but were allowed to open a gap of only five minutes before the peloton picked up the pace. The teams of the sprinters, who were keen on reeling them in and see everything come down to a bunch sprint, did their homework and pegged back the sextet – Natnael Berhane (Dimension Data), Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie), Remy Di Gregorio (Delko-Marseille), Axel Domont (AG2R), Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Federico Zurlo (UAE-Emirates) – with 17 kilometers to go.
The sprint in Bourg-de-Péage, a small town in the Drôme department, was a chaotic one, due to the large roads and numerous roundabouts derailing the lead-out trains. Marcel Kittel finished seventh the stage won by fellow countryman André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), for his second top 10 finish at the race, after the one in Chalon-sur-Saône.
Victorious on the difficult time trial on stage 4, Julian Alaphilippe finished safely in the bunch and retained the yellow jersey, making him only the third Frenchman in the past decade to lead Paris-Nice on multiple days at a single edition. Julian, who raced only one event prior to coming here – the Abu Dhabi Tour, where he won the white jersey en route to finishing 5th in the standings – tops also the white jersey rankings at the "Race to the Sun".
"Today was a beautiful day. My teammates did a great job, controlling the stage and keeping me protected, so hats off to them for their work. I really enjoyed my first day in the Paris-Nice yellow jersey! Having the fans cheer for me at the start and finish, as well as during the stage was something incredible, a moment I will always treasure, and I want to thank them for their support and affection", a smiling Julian said after completing the stage.
His teammates, Daniel Martin (5th) and Philippe Gilbert (6th), are also well placed in the general classification going into the last three days, making Quick-Step Floors the dominant squad at Paris-Nice so far.
Stage 6 will take the peloton from Aubagne to Fayence, which is set to host a finish for the third time in history, following the 2009 and 2014 editions. The course is 193.5km-long and has six classified climbs, including the second-category ascent (1300 meters, 9.8% average gradient) which will feature at the finish.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele