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2016 Tour de France; Stage 5- Van Avermaet Van Dammes Victory

July 6, 2016

It is entirely possible that prior to today, the most famous of all Belgians was Jean Claude Van Damme … that is before Greg van Avermaet grabbed an incredible stage win and took the yellow jersey.

And, if you think about it, they do have strikingly similar … something.

Anyway, the potential GC fireworks today never materialized after the peloton allowed van Avermaet (BMC), Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), and Andriy Grivko (Astana) to ride away from a larger break they had joined earlier in the stage. Remnants of the break pursued the three, dangling a handful of minutes behind, while the peloton watched the gap to the leading three balloon to an insurmountable gap of more than 15 minutes.

Eventually, de Gendt and van Avermaet shed Grivko on the first of two Category 2 climbs. The two Belgians worked really well together, with de Gendt gaining the KOM points to take the polka dot jersey by the end of the stage. Van Avermaet began the day in 20th, only :18 behind Sagan, so he was more than a little motivated to work his hardest to the finish line. With a touch more than 17km to go, the big Belgian decided his chances were better alone. GvA is a handy sprinter, so de Gendt likely would not have been able to beat him in a sprint, but if the two began playing games they may have gotten caught. And, possibly, further up the road, de Gendt may have been able to shed van Avermaet with his usually better climbing skills. Regardless, van Avermaet put 2:34 into de Gendt at the end of the stage as he soloed in across the line. He now holds a lead of more than five minutes, so he’s likely to wear the jersey for more than a day.

Meanwhile, back in the salt mines, GvA’s co-awesome-super-nice GC teammates Porte and van Garderen were stuck to the other GC contenders like cheap military port of call tattoos. No amount of scrubbing was going to shed the pair, so the day was a total success for BMC. The other GC contenders were relatively unscathed, even though SKY and then Movistar put the screws to the bunch on the final two climbs of the day. Since the stage win was out of the question for the GC favorites, the high tempo pace was either an effort to send a signal to the other GC teams, or just an effort to thin the GC herd. Contador held on gamely until the last climb, losing a small amount of additional time to his rivals (:33), while Vincenzo Nibali rocketed out the back and lost more than eight minutes on the GC guys. Froome, Quintana, Aru, Pinot, Bardet, and the other main players all came in together for the most part, so the GC picture remains unchanged for the real contenders.

For now, Greg van Avermaet gets to enjoy this high point in his career. Known as much for his near misses, as his wins- if not more so- GvA is more familiar with explaining how he didn’t win. But today, he got to talk a lot about the joy of winning; “You lose so often … you have so many disappointments. You have to enjoy it when it when you win.”

Stage 6 could be another stage for a breakaway to succeed, but the sprinters will want to keep that from happening, if they have the legs to try for the win. After all the climbing today, and the lumpy profile of stage 6, they might not get to have a say in the matter. Though heading downhill much of the day, it also does a fair amount of climbing. It’s not impossible to see a guy like Sagan get the win again, and with Contador floundering from injuries, Stinkoff will be looking for chances to keep winning. BMC, with Porte and van Garderen eyeing the GC in Paris, may not work very hard to keep van Avermaet in yellow. Given GvA’s form and the power of the jersey, he likely won’t have any trouble keeping the jersey for at least another day.

Now we just have to see if GvA channels his inner Jen Claude Van Damme and goes all Double Impact or Hard Target for the next few days …

Tim

Don’t make me tell your mom you didn’t buy a kit. 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 7, 2016 7:49 AM

    “like cheap military port of call tattoos”… That’s a hoot! Were you speaking from experience? Thanks again for the fun recap.

    Like

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