Cycling: Van Avermaet takes yellow with Tour de France 5th stage win

Belgium's Greg Van Avermaet celebrates as he crosses the finish line at the end of the 216km fifth stage .
Belgium's Greg Van Avermaet celebrates as he crosses the finish line at the end of the 216km fifth stage .PHOTO: AFP

LE LIORAN, France (AFP) - Greg Van Avermaet rode into the coveted yellow jersey as he won Wednesday's fifth stage of the Tour de France.

It was a second stage win for the cobbled classics specialist who also won a stage last year.

Van Avermaet, 31, attacked fellow Belgian Thomas De Gendt 17.4km from the end of the 21km stage from Limoges to Le Lioran to also rip the yellow jersey from Slovak Peter Sagan.

He finished more than 2min 30sec ahead of De Gendt with Pole Rafal Majka in third over 5min back.

The overall favourites rolled in just behind Majka after an attack from the peloton by Frenchman Romain Bardet 3km from home sparked some action.

Two-time former winner Alberto Contador lost more time, around 30sec, as he continues to recover from injuries sustained in crashes on the first two days.

But reigning champion Chris Froome and chief rival Nairo Quintana came over the line together.

Van Avermaet now leads Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe by 5:11 with Alejandro Valverde of Spain two seconds further back.

Nine riders broke away 20km into the stage but eventually three of those went clear with the other six forming a chase group.

De Gendt, Van Avermaet and Andriy Grivko of Ukraine built up a lead of more than 2min 30sec to the six pursuers and over 15 minutes to the unrushed peloton.

Finally, in the last 50km, Froome's Team Sky and Quintana's Movistar took up the peloton pace-setting "to respect the race" Movistar sports director Jose Luis Arrieta told France Television.

On the ascent up the first category two climb, the 5.4km long, 8.1 per cent average gradient Pas de Peyrol, Grivko was dropped by the two Belgians while two of the six chasers also cracked.

That was also where Sagan gave up his grip on the race leader's yellow jersey as he was shelled out the back of the peloton, while 2014 winner and Giro d'Italia champion Vincenzo Nibali also found himself in difficulty.

By the top of that climb, with still 30km to ride, the peloton - now less than 30-strong - had closed to under 7min behind the lead duo.

With 17.4km left Van Avermaet attacked De Gendt and left him for dead, going after stage glory and the yellow jersey as well, although his compatriot had already done enough to take the king of the mountains jersey.

Poles Majka, the 2014 king of the mountains, and Bartosz Huzarski broke free from their two chasing companions but they had 3min to make up and little chance of catching Van Avermaet.

Having worked hard on the first second category climb, Movistar stopped pushing at the front of the peloton and Sky set a more relaxed tempo on the 4.4km, 7.9 per cent average Col du Perthus.

But by now, Van Avermaet's victory was assured as the peloton's gap hovered around the 6min mark without showing much desire to chase down the Belgian.

Bardet did create some late excitement but the final ramp up to the finish was neither steep, nor long enough to create gaps amongst the favourites, except for Contador.