It was always going to be a good finish in Quimper – a steepish climb and some corners, right where the leadout trains would (should they have been able to carry their sprinters to the finale) be hitting their straps on narrow, twisty roads.
The day began with news of two abandonments – an expected one from Tiesj Benoot, who rang his bell solidly in a crash towards the end of stage four, and was in no condition to continue safely (the official team Lotto statement included “second-degree dislocation of AC joint in right shoulder; bruised ribs, right shoulder blade and left wrist; abrasions on hips, back, arms, legs; cuts to right eyebrow and back of head”), and a surprising one from a favourite for the day, Bling Matthews, who was overcome during the night with a tummy bug and couldn’t eat well enough to risk his health on such a hard day. Soon after the start, Katusha’s run of poor luck continued when Robert Kiserlovski got tangled up ing a crash, which included a photographer’s moto, and had to abandon.
It as shortly after this that the break of the day formed, after an hour of racing that say nearly 48km covered… Sylvain Chavanel, 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) got up the road for a maximum lead of four minutes. Chavanel was after KOM points, but so was Skujins who will end up in the Polka Dot Jersey on Thursday thanks to a higher placing in the race, although on the same points (4) as Chavanel.
In the battle for Green, it got interesting early on as Cavendish, Kittel and Greipel were all dropped early, but when Gaviria was shelled approaching the finale, the Bora-Hansgrohe riders really piled on the pressure, forcing the catch of the break almost 20km out, and bringing with them a select group of just 38 riders into the last 10km. Sky got to the head of affairs, and ran the pace making into the final 1500m, almost as if Froome was looking to nick a few cheeky seconds, but the final ramp was too tough and it was Philip Gilbert who attacked first for Quickstep. Once he had been pegged back, Greg van Avermaert hit the front, but not hard enough to split things up, and it was Sagan who came off his wheel – challenged twice by Sonny Colbrelli before just hanging on for his second win in the 2018 Tour. Thrilling, to say the least.
Thursday’s sixth stage covers 181km from Brest to Mûr de Bretagne Guerlédan, and is a hilly affair with four categorised climbs, and a hard uphill finish that will suit, again, the punchers.