Lars Boom wins on the cobbles of stage 5 as Chris Froome crashes out

by Matt de Neef

Lars Boom (Belkin) has won a memorable fifth stage of the 2014 Tour de France after escaping from an elite lead group on the final sector of cobblestones less than 7km from the finish. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) finished third and extended his lead over his main GC rivals while 2013 winner Chris Froome (Sky) crashed out of the race.

From the moment the course was announced in October last year, it was stage 5 of this year’s Tour de France that attracted the most discussion. The 155km stage, which started in Belgium and featured many of the cobblestone sectors made famous by Paris-Roubaix, was seen as a major hurdle for the GC riders, and so it proved to be.

Heavy rain in the north of France prompted race organisers to remove two cobbled sectors from the route due to safety concerns, but heavy rain throughout the stage ensured the stage was still marred by numerous crashes.

World time trial champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) attacked from the gun and he was joined by eight other riders in the day’s main escape group: Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge), Mathew Hayman (Orica-GreenEdge), Janier Acevedo (Garmin-Sharp), Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Marcus Burghardt (BMC), Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol), Lieuwe Westra (Astana) and Rein Taaramae (Cofidis).

As the rain poured down the breakaway began to build up its lead. Back in the main field Chris Froome, nursing an injured wrist from his crash on stage 4, suffered his first crash of stage 5. Three riders from Team Sky were sent back to help Froome catch the peloton, and with the assistance of some drafting from the team car the defending champion was back in the mix.

Far from being settled up front, the breakaway was changing all the time with Tony Martin crashing then catching back on, Dumoulin getting dropped then getting back on, and Acevedo getting dropped and heading back to the peloton. Marcus Burghardt dropped back to the main field to look after his team leader Tejay van Garderen leaving the remaining riders with an advantage of 1:33 with 100km to go.

Back in the main field there were crashes galore — Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) went down, three-time stage winner Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) hit the deck, as too did French national champion Arnaud Demare ( Even before the cobbles began it was carnage with a crash seemingly happening every few minutes.

With 70km to go Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) both crashed and the two team leaders would spend the rest of the day trying, unsuccessfully, to catch back on with the front of the race.

And two kilometres later the biggest story of the Tour began to unfold. Chris Froome crashed for the second time on the stage and the third time in two days, and this time it was serious. A change of bike was quickly issued to Froome but he was unable to continue, climbing into the team car, his Tour de France title defence over.

With roughly 65km to go the first of the day’s seven cobbled sectors began and after a largely uneventful run through the 1.1km sector the leaders’ gap was down to two minutes.

With 54km to go the riders passed through the day’s intermediate sprint with the breakaway soaking up the first seven positions. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) took eighth uncontested and increased his lead in the points classification.

The second cobbled sector began 49km from the finish and Rein Tarramae was promptly dropped from the lead group, thanks to the efforts of Orica-GreenEdge’s Hayman and Clarke at the front. And back in the main field, a decisive split was affecting the race overall.

Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) struggled to keep up with the peloton and with Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) driving the pace, Contador was distanced while overall leader Nibali stayed in contention.

Out the other side of the cobbled sector Contador was 42 seconds behind the Nibali group of roughly 30 riders, and with Astana and Lotto-Belisol driving at the front, the gap to the Spaniard continued to grow.

The third sector began with just over 39km to go and the gap to the six leaders was only 40 seconds. When the peloton hit the cobbles Criterium du Dauphine winner Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) crashed, as too did Jurgen van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol). The crashes forced a fracturing of the peloton and shortly after Lars Boom attacked with Sep Vanmarcke on his wheel.

Roughly 34km from the finish Lieuwe Westra dropped back from the lead group to help overall leader Vincenzo Nibali who was leading the chase to Boom and Vanmarcke on his own.

With 30km left in the race Boom and Vanmarcke were caught by the Astana led peloton which, by this point, was down to around 20 riders. Meanwhile Alberto Contador, Richie Porte (Sky), Valverde, Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Tejay van Garderen and roughly 30 others were 1:20 behind.

When Samuel Dumoulin crashed out of the lead group the breakaway was down to just four riders. The leaders were eventually caught with 28km to go at which point the race was being led by a group of 15 riders, including Vincenzo Nibali, Peter Sagan, Fabian Cancellara, Lars Boom and Sep Vanmarcke.

The next cobbled sector began with 24km left in the race at which point Sep Vanmarcke promptly got a puncture, scuppering his chances of a stage win. Behind the lead group, Andrew Talansky, shepherded by a handful of teammates, was 40 seconds in arrears with the Contador group a further 30 seconds back.

By the end of the cobbled sector Lars Boom had a slight gap over the remnants of the chase group but he was brought back by Peter Sagan, forming a group of four at the head of the race: Boom, Sagan, Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana).

On the following section of pave, the group of four was caught thanks to the efforts of Lieuwe Westra who had the maillot jaune, Vincenzo Nibali, on his wheel. The Contador group meanwhile was two minutes behind.

A little more than 15km from the finish the penultimate and longest sector of cobbles began; the 3.7km “Hornaing” sector. It was on this sector that many expected pre-race favourite Fabian Cancellara to attack and ride away for the win. Instead it was the Astana trio of Westra, Fuglsang and Nibali, plus Lars Boom, that rode away from Cancellara and Sagan. By the end of the sector, with about 12km to go, the four riders had created a race-winning advantage.

Further back, Geraint Thomas (Sky) was digging deep in service of stand-in Sky leader Richie Porte, dragging the Tasmanian out of the Contador group and across to the Talansky group.

At the front of the race, with 8.8km to go, Lieuwe Westra’s job was done and he drifted back, leaving just Fuglsang, Nibali and Boom in the race lead. The Talansky/Porte group was 1:59 behind with Contador a further 10 seconds behind.

With 6.7km remaining Lars Boom made his race-winning move, attacking on the final sector of cobbles and gapping Nibali and Fuglsang. He powered away, holding on to a 19-second lead as he crossed the line in heavy rain, with Fuglsang second ahead of Nibali.

Nibali’s spirited ride saw the Sicilian finish more than two minutes clear of Andrew Talansky and 2:35 ahead of Alberto Contador, extending his lead over his main GC rivals. Jakob Fuglsang is now second, two seconds behind, while Peter Sagan is third, 44 seconds in arrears.

Sagan’s fourth place on the stage (after sprinting past Cancellara and Orica-GreenEdge’s Jens Keukeleire) gives him a 50 point lead in the points classification and he still leads the best young rider classification as well. Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis) still wears the polka dots of the KOM classification leader going into stage 6.

So after a truly epic stage 5 of this year’s Tour de France, expect normal service to resume tomorrow. Stage 6 takes the riders 194km from Arras to Reims with two fourth category climbs the only real obstacles along the way. It might be an easier day on paper, but after the carnage of today’s stage there will be more than a few sore bodies in the peloton.

Previous stage reports

– Stage 1: Marcel Kittel takes Tour opener as Cavendish and Gerrans crash
– Stage 2: Vincenzo Nibali wins in Sheffield and takes Tour lead overall
– Stage 3: Marcel Kittel doubles up in London, Nibali holds on to yellow
– Stage 4: Marcel Kittel claims his third stage as Vincenzo Nibali defends yellow

Stage results

[rrresults format=’full’ id=’124212′]

Editors Picks