Sagan takes stage 5 win as Van Avermaet retains overall lead

“It was a really good sprint. Gilbert attacked and I was well placed. He went early and Colbrelli and I launched our sprint at the right moment. Sonny almost beat me but I crushed the pedals harder,” Sagan said.

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Thursday’s sixth stage has a similar profile but a harder uphill finish in Mur de Bretagne, where Sagan will probably struggle to take a third stage win.

France’s Alaphilippe, who is six seconds off the pace overall, is widely expected to take the yellow jersey as the finale perfectly suits his abilities.

Wednesday’s stage had been dubbed a mini “Liege-Bastogne-Liege” in reference to the oldest one-day classic, but unlike Sagan, it failed to live up to expectations.

The peloton dozed off during the major part of the 194.5-kilometre ride from Lorient, only controlling a seven-man breakaway that ended about 10 kilometres from the line with Latvia’s Tom Skujins taking the polka dot jersey for the mountains classification.

“Why not try to hold on to it until Paris,” said Skujins.

Then the pace upped and the stage favourites sprung into action, but the script had been written – victory for Sagan, who extended his lead in the points classification in his bid for a record-equalling sixth green jersey.

Earlier on Wednesday, Australian Michael Matthews withdrew before the fifth stage began after being struck down by a fever.

“I’m really disappointed to not start this morning,” Matthews said. “I’ve been really ill this morning and tried all I could to make it to the start line, but feeling like this, it’s simply not possible. I will now go home to recover and will continue cheering for the guys from there.”

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