Paris-Nice: Geraint Thomas retains yellow jersey as Carlos Betancur wins stage five
Carlos Betancur won stage five of Paris-Nice as Britain's Geraint Thomas retained the yellow jersey.
Last Updated: 13/03/14 6:18pm
Betancur attacked 9km out from the finish in Rive-de-Gier and although Bob Jungels and Jakob Fuglsang countered and later joined him, the Colombian comfortably won a three-man sprint to the line.
The peloton followed two seconds later, ensuring Thomas (Team Sky) consolidated his three-second advantage at the top of the general classification, with John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) remaining second and Tom-Jelte Slagter (Garmin-Sharp) a further second back in third. Betancur's victory lifts him to fourth overall, five seconds down on Thomas.
"I'm glad to still be in the yellow jersey," Thomas said afterwards. "The guys did a great job again but we wouldn't cover everybody.
"I saw there were Giant-Shimano and Omega Pharma - Quick-Step guys with us and I banked on them to chase for a mass sprint and we nearly got it.
"In my mind, riders like [Vincenzo] Nibali or Betancur still remain the favourites - they have more GC [general classification] experience than I do."
As on stage four, when Thomas broke away to claim the race lead, the 152.5km fifth stage ended with a categorised climb and then a fast run to the finish.
The category-two Cote de Sainte-Catherine averaged only 2.8 per cent in gradient over its 12.5km distance, but it still invited attacks as Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling), Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Belisol), Stefan Denifl (IAM Cycling) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) all successively tried and failed to break clear of the bunch.
Nibali set a fierce pace on the descent from the climb, but as soon as the road levelled out Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) launched his attack, with Fuglsang (Astana) and Jungels (Trek Factory Racing) later succeeding in bridging across.
The trio built up a maximum advantage of just 10 seconds, but the chase behind was disjointed and they were able to hang on until the finish, where Betancur easily outpaced his two fellow escapees.
Jungles edged out Fuglsang to claim second, while Thomas crossed the line in 16th.
Stage six takes the riders on a 221.5km marathon from Saint-Saturnin Les-Avignon to Fayence and ends with a short climb to the finish.
Stage five result
1 Carlos Betancur (Col) Ag2r-La Mondiale, 3:38:15
2 Bob Jungels (Lux) Trek Factory Racing, same time
3 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, st
4 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Europcar, +2secs
5 Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, st
6 Reinhardt Janse van Rensburg (RSA) Giant-Shimano, st
7 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Belisol, st
8 Greg van Avermaet (Bel) BMC, st
9 Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana, st
10 Marco Marcato (Ita) Cannondale, st
16 Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky, st
1 Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky, 21:52:42
2 John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Shimano, +3secs
3 Tom-Jelte Slagter (Ned) Garmin-Sharp, +4
4 Carlos Betancur (Col) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +5
5 Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar, +8
6 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, +13
7 Jan Bakelants (Bel) Lotto Belisol, same time
8 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin, +15
9 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, +19
10 Cyril Gautier (Fra) Europcar, st