De Plus animates Dauphiné stage from the break
Julian Alaphilippe remains the highest-ranked Quick-Step Floors rider with two stages to go.
Stage 5 of the Critérium du Dauphiné departed from Grenoble, capital of the Alps and a city inextricably linked to the history of cycling, which featured for the 60th time on the course of the World Tour race and where the first ever Tour de France yellow jersey was awarded, in 1919, to Eugene Christophe.
The start put several riders in trouble, as a second-category climb awaited the peloton immediately after the flag dropped, so an early selection was made while from the front nine riders took off and formed a strong breakaway. Laurens De Plus, who last month impressed at the Tour of California, where he finished a solid eighth, was part of the group who slowly opened a slim margin which they eventually expanded to three minutes at the foot of the day's second classified climb, Col des Mouilles.
Valmorel, which returned on the race for the first time since 2013, was a mouth-watering prospect for the GC contenders, who weren't keen on making any gifts to the escapees. Despite pressing on from the bottom of the 12.7km-long climb and splitting the group, Laurens De Plus was caught by the bunch inside the last six kilometers of the stage and climbed at his own pace for the remaining of the ascent.
Attacks came only two kilometers from home, when Daniel Martin (UAE Team Emirates) powered clear to take a solo victory ahead of Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), the race's new leader. Stage 4 victor Julian Alaphilippe fought admirably on the rising gradient to hang in despite the climb not being suited to his characteristics and crossed the line less than half a minute behind the winner, thus cementing his fourth place in the general classification.
The Frenchman is one of the two Quick-Step Floors riders in the top 10 overall, the other one being Luxembourg Champion Bob Jungels, who climbed at a steady pace on Valmorel, without going into the red, and retained his position in the upper echelon of the standings at the end of the day, where he now lies in eighth ahead of the 110km-long stage six to La Rosière.
"Overall, it was a good day at the office. We had Laurens in the breakaway, who really showed himself, but got reeled in on what proved to be a very fast final, which split the favourites'group into pieces", said sports director Brian Holm. "Congrats to our former rider Dan Martin on taking the win. We were also glad to see Julian and Bob up there, as they fought well and made it into the top 20 on a very tough stage. Going into the weekend, we can be pleased with how things stand."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images