Some stages throw up surprises – a breakaway survives, a crash fells a favourite, a crosswind splinters the race. Others follow the script. Stage 5 of the 2018 Tour was one of the latter.
Over 204.5km from Lorient to Quimper, the peloton wound its way northwest from the Atlantic Coast, over some of the first significant hills of the Tour. Predictably, a breakaway got away almost as soon as the flag dropped, coalescing into a group of seven: Sylvain Chavanel and Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie), Jasper De Buyst (Lotto Soudal), Julien Vermote (Dimension Data), Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo), Elie Gesbert (Fortuneo-Samsic) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis).
That group was slowly whittled down – Chavanel took off on the first categorised climb of the day hoping to sweep up some KOM points, and Gesbert took a tumble and finished the day in the peloton. In the end, it was Calmejane, Skujins and Edet squabbling over who would take turns and points, with Skujins deservedly nabbing polka dots and the day’s combativity award.
When the catch of the breakaway was made with around 12km remaining, there was frantic positioning on narrow roads as the favourites for the day tried to set themselves up for the finish. With the finish line lying at the top of the punchy 3km, 6.2% Cote de Menez Quelerc’h, the stage seemed suited for a classics specialist – a rider in the mould of Peter Sagan, yellow jersey Greg Van Avermaet, Phillippe Gilbert or Julian Alaphillippe. In the end, all of these riders were in the mix. Gilbert put in an impressive long-range attack, before he got hauled back by Van Avermaet and Julien Simon. And then, almost inevitably, Peter Sagan hit the front, again crossing the line as a popular victor.