The Guardian, Staff and agencies, Wednesday 9 July 2014
|Lars Boom celebrates as he crosses the finish line at the end of the 152.5km|
fifth stage of the Tour de France. Photograph: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images
Lars Boom won the fifth stage of the Tour de France while Vincenzo Nibali finished third, 19 seconds behind him, and retains the yellow jersey.
On a day of wet weather, the route took the riders over slippery cobbled streets and last year’s winner Chris Froome was forced to abandon the race after two crashes.
The Ypres to Arenburg Porte du Hinaut stage commemorated 100 years since the start of World War One and featured many of the cobbles used in the Paris-Roubaix one-day race ‘the Hell of the North’.
Wet weather forced race organisers to remove two of the nine cobbled sections, but Froome’s falls came prior to the first, where the day’s racing drama began.
Boom (Belkin) was in the day’s breakaway and proved the strongest over the cobbles on an epic day’s racing to win by 19 seconds from Nibali and his Astana team-mate Jakob Fuglsang.
Nibali’s was a sensational ride from the Italian as he preserved his place in the leader’s yellow jersey, by two seconds from Fuglsang and 44 seconds from Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
Race organisers removed sectors seven and five - two sections totalling 2.4km - reducing the stage distance to 152.5km, 3km less than originally planned.
Froome’s exit came prior to the first cobbled section, after around 70km, with seven riders in the early breakaway. Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) lost contact with his fellow escapees on the first cobbled section, but a 16-rider group formed with 25km, and four cobbled sections, to go. It included Nibali, Sagan, Boom and Fabian Cancellara (Trek), many people’s tip for the stage win.
The two-time winner Alberto Contador was over a minute behind, but as the 16-rider lead group was stretched and then joined back together in a frantic period, the Spaniard lost further ground.
Nibali’s rivals continually tried to shed him from the group, but the Italian dug deep to stick with them and his team-mates Lieuwe Westra and Fuglsang did a sterling job at the front.
Geraint Thomas and Richie Porte, Team Sky’s leader after Froome’s withdrawal, tried to bridge the gap by escaping from the Contador group, the Welshman dragging along the Australian.
The Astana trio went ahead with Belkin’s Lars Boom with 12km to go before Westra fell away from the leading group with 8km left.
Boom held a commanding lead as the riders exited the final cobbled section and soloed to victory as Nibali enhanced his advantage with support from Fuglsang. Sagan led the second group home in fourth, 1min 01sec behind Boom, and Porte finished 20th, 2:11 behind, to move up to eighth overall, 1:54 behind Nibali.
Sky Procycling team rider Christopher Froome of Great Britain
gets medical assistance after crashing down during the 4th stage of
the Tour de France 2014. (EPA Photo/Kim Ludbrook)