Can Van Avermaet Keep the Yellow Jersey?

Stage 5 of the 2016 version of the Tour de France was the first climbing stage at the Massif Central. We were expecting the ¬†climbers to flex the muscles to show each other how ready they are but the breakaway had a different idea. Nine riders jumped ahead on 21 km after the start but soon they split. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Sudal) and Andriy Grivko (Astana) stayed in front and the peloton let them go as far as 16 minutes ahead! Everybody, including me is wondering “Why?”.

When the teams of the race main contenders decided to chase it was a bit too late. The breakaway got split, but Van Avermaet managed to take the stage around 6 minutes ahead of Chris Froome (Sky), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Fabio Aru (Astana). Yellow jersey wearer, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) was, obviously, further behind and he will hand the yellow jersey to Van Avermaet. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) got dropped at some point so he is out of contention and surprisingly Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) lost 33 seconds to the other GC contenders; so it seems that he is still suffering from the injuries of the first stage’s crash or he is not in a great form. If he carries on like this he will be out of contention unless he eats some Clenbuterol-infused steaks between now and Paris.

Now, the interesting question is: who is BMC going to support? Van Avermaet who is 5 minutes ahead of Froome et al, or Richie Porte who is 1:45 behind them? Even Tejay van Garderen is on the same time as Froome, Quintana and Aru. So, it doesn’t look very good for Porte. Greg Van Avermaet is not a bad rider; could he take the yellow jersey all the way to Paris?

A quite interesting event was that at the end of the stage Quintana and Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) attacked trying to put some distance on Froome and Aru, but they managed to catch them.

As for Stage 4, it was great to see Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) back in his winning ways on a photo finish, even closer than that of Stage 3.