By Julien Pretot
COLMAR, France (Reuters) – Peter Sagan burst into life on the Tour de France when he claimed the fifth stage at the end of a 175.5-km bumpy ride from St Die des Vosges on Wednesday.
The three-times world champion beat Belgian Wout van Aert and Italian Matteo Trentin in a sprint finish to strengthen his grip on the points classification as he looks to secure a record-breaking seventh green jersey.
“This victory is well deserved for the whole team, they worked very hard all day to control the stage, I want to thank all my team mates tonight,” said the Bora-Hansgrohe rider, who had a below-average Spring classics season.
“I started my sprint in the right moment. Now I have to keep going.”
Sagan, who now has 12 Tour stage victories to his name, has 144 points in the points classification with Australian Michael Matthews in second place on 97.
France’s Julian Alaphilippe retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey after his Deceuninck-Quick Step team helped Bora-Hansgrohe control the pace of the bunch to stay in touch with four breakaway riders.
Among them was Belgian Tim Wellens, who used the four categorised climbs to extend his lead in the mountains classification.
‘We controlled and I stayed alert in the finale,” said Alaphilippe after a ride through the Alsace wineyards.
The overall contenders had a quiet day in the peloton ahead of Thursday’s sixth stage, a 160.5km ride from Mulhouse ending at the top of La Planche des Belles Filles.
The final climb is a 7-km effort at an average gradient of 8.7% and Alaphilippe might struggle to keep his yellow jersey as the usual suspects will start their battle for the general classification.
Alaphilippe leads Van Aert, who picked up a six-second bonus by finishing second, by 14 seconds with Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk, the biggest threat to the Frenchman, in third place and 25 seconds off the pace.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris and Ed Osmond)