The Tour’s fifth stage from Amiens in the Somme to Chartres southwest of Paris was a corker that saw a breakaway group of five work together to put twelve and a half minutes between themselves and the chasing peloton. The ensuing flurry of attacks at the finish saw Australian Stuart O’Grady (Cofidis) take stage victory and a new yellow jersey in French Champion Thomas Voeckler (Brioches La Boulangere).
A rush of attacks right from the off on Thursday’s stage led to the group of five, composing Stuart O’Grady (Cofidis), Thomas Voeckler (La Boulangère), Jakob Piil (CSC), Sandy Casar (FDJeux.com) and Magnus Backstedt (Alessio), pulling half a minute clear by the 21km mark.
Posing little threat to the general classification there was no rush to draw them back in and the breakaway steadily increased their lead, riding into the driving wind and rain: By the 86km mark the gap had opened up to 15.05.
The chasing peloton behind never really looked much like actually chasing although leaders US Postal did pick up the pace around the 100km mark.
For the breakaway bunch, having worked so hard together for so long, it wasn’t until the final twelve kilometres that the attacks, nine in all, began
with O’Grady eventually emerging victorious followed by Piil, Casar, Voeckler and Basckstedt.
O’Grady dedicated his win to his banned team mate and good friend, British cyclist David Millar. He said: “I’d decided if I won a stage, when I won a stage, it would be for two really good friends of mine, Dave Millar and Matt White, but also everyone at Cofidis because it has been one hell of a ride.”
Notable incidents were: a 12-man crash just after 100km that took down four US Postal riders and the decision shortly afterwards by Australian Brad McGee (Fdjeux.com) to abandon after struggling along a minute off the back with back pain.
Unconnected to the stage, Lance Armstrong confirmed that he won’t be competing in the year’s Olympics saying that he wanted to spend more time with his children and didn’t want to the take the place of someone who might be better motivated to compete.
Today’s stage is the flat 196km from Bonneval to Angers which could see high speeds depending on what the wind’s up to.