Colombia Oro y Paz: Alaphilippe dons the KOM jersey
Our team will head into the final stage of the race with two riders in the top 10 overall.
Julian Alaphilippe and Jhonatan Narvaez rode their heart out in the tough stage 5 of Colombia Oro y Paz, which took the peloton atop Salento after a course punctuated by several climbs, the last of which averaged 6.7% over 3.3 kilometers. Having the pink jersey on the team for the fourth day running meant that Quick-Step Floors took the race into their hands from the start, pulling behind a 12-man breakaway who animated the stage.
Triple stage winner Fernando Gaviria, Iljo Keisse, neo-pro Alvaro Hodeg and even Maximiliano Richeze, who later in the stage was forced to abandon due to stomach problems, all worked for Friday's winner Julian Alaphilippe, resplendent in the pink jersey that rested on his shoulders following his maiden win of the season. The young Frenchman was again one of the favourites in case it all came down to the last climb, and aware of this, the other teams began pushing a huge tempo on the penultimate ascent, thus dropping the 25-year-old.
Despite suffering, Alaphilippe remained calm, put in a daredevil descent and helped also by a remarkable Jhonatan Narvaez, returned to the elite group just ahead of the Salento climb. The Colombians attacked again and again, and Julian responded to each of these moves until with under one kilometer to go, when another explosive acceleration distanced him.
The stage winner emerged from a four-up sprint, and it was Rigoberto Uran (EF Education) the one who came out on the top, beating the new race leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar). Ecuadorian Champion Narvaez finished seventh, less than half a minute down, and just a few seconds ahead of Alaphilippe, who did everything to limit the damages. Both are now in the general classification top 10, with everything set to be decided on Sunday afternoon, when the race will conclude at the top of the tough Manizales climb.
"It's a real pleasure to ride in such a team! I am very proud of the guys, they worked hard to put me in the best position and deserve a big-shout out for their effort. Was a hard day out there, as everyone attacked me. I responded the first time, I responded also the second time, but then I couldn't follow the moves anymore. I did everything I could, but it was very hard", said the Frenchman.
Alaphilippe is one of the two Quick-Step Floors riders in possession of a distinctive jersey at Colombia Oro y Paz; if home favourite Fernando Gaviria leads the points classification, Julian tops the KOM standings, a remarkable achievement considering the quality of the Colombian climbers present here.
"The number of fans who came to cheer for us today is truly incredible and the atmosphere they made gave you goosebumps. I am very happy to be here; riding Colombia Oro y Paz is turning out to be a fantastic experience for me. Now I'll try to get some rest and see what tomorrow's stage will bring."
Photo: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images