Van Avermaet wins Tour de France stage five, takes yellow

Wed Jul 6, 2016 12:26pm EDT
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By Julien Pretot

LE LIORAN, France (Reuters) - Belgian Greg van Avermaet claimed the overall leader's yellow jersey when he won the fifth stage of the Tour de France at the end of a long breakaway as Alberto Contador appeared to suffer from crash-related injuries on Wednesday.

After hitting the deck twice in the two opening stages, the Spaniard (Tinkoff) looked in pain and cracked in the finale of the middle-mountain stage, losing 23 seconds to the other top riders who finished together more than five minutes behind BMC rider Van Avermaet.

Another big name, Giro d'Italia champion Vincenzo Nibali, (Astana) was dropped in one of the short but hard climbs of the day on the 216km stage from Limoges, ending up 8:38 behind the overall favorites and with slim hopes of winning the race.

Nibali's main task this year, however, was to help fellow Italian Fabio Aru in his first bid to win the Tour.

Van Avermaet was part of a nine-man breakaway that jumped away from the pack after some 20km, shortly after going through Saint Leonard de Noblat, the home town of France's favorite rider, the 80-year-old Raymond Poulidor.

Long labeled an also-ran, just like Poulidor who finished on the Tour podium eight times but never wore the yellow jersey, Van Avermaet added to his Tour stage win of last year.

"It's special for me, it's the best jersey in the world. It's my first time and perhaps the last so I will enjoy every moment," said Van Avermaet, who now has two Tour victories to his name.

"It's the best moment of my career. Winning a stage is already quite something but this takes it to another level."   Continued...

Cycling - Tour de France cycling race - The 216 km (134 miles) Stage 5 from Limoges to Le Lioran, France - 06/07/2016 - BMC Racing team rider Greg Van Avermaet of Belgium wins on the finish line.    REUTERS/Juan Medina