Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma) sprinted to Stage 5 success at Paris-Nice on Thursday as David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) made inroads into the general classification lead of Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates).
And while Trek-Segafredo and Jayco Alula attempted to string out the peloton on the final climb of the day, the Cat. 3 Cote d’Aleyrac, the bunch was all together as the race hit the flamme rouge.
The final run into Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux contained two roundabouts – one under the 1km-to-go marker and one with just 300m to go – meaning positioning was always going to be crucial.
And so it proved as Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma) closed down a move from Ben Swift (Ineos Grenadiers) to allow Kooij to seal the win after a sedate day of riding. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) was second and Tim Merlier (Soudal-Quick Step) third.
Jonas Gregaard (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team) – as he has on every road stage of the event thus far – attacked at the start of the day. The king of the mountains incumbent was joined by Sandy Dujardin (TotalEnergies).
Gregaard collected 13 points from three early KOM climbs to fortify his position in that jersey. He then dropped back to leave Dujardin on his own and while the gap to the TotalEnergies rider hit five minutes at one point, he was reeled in with 80km to go.
Pogacar then went for bonus points at the intermediate sprint on Col du Deves. However, Gaudu – trailing Pogacar by 10 seconds ahead of the stage – collected the six bonus seconds on offer. Team-mate Arnaud Demare, who led him out, collected four, with Pogacar taking the remaining two.
That left the Slovenian holding a six-second GC advantage ahead of the finish into Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux.
The Cote d’Aleyrac awaited ahead of that finish, and as the peloton approached the climb, Trek-Segafredo and Jayco Alula upped the tempo in an attempt to drop the pure sprinters like Merlier and Sam Bennett (Bora-hansgrohe).
However, with an average gradient of 4.3 %, the majority of sprinters hung on before Gregaard sped off to collect another three KOM points, meaning he had taken the maximum 16 available on the day – extending his lead over Pogacar to 18 points in the KOM classification.
The Slovenian, who finished safely in the bunch behind Kooij, will once again wear the yellow jersey ahead of the 197.4km ride from Tourves to La Colle-sur-Loup on Friday.
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