Alaphilippe retains ‘maillot jaune,’ Greipel wins sprint

AFP, BOURG-DE-PEAGE, France

Sat, Mar 11, 2017 - Page 16

Germany’s Andre Greipel powered past his sprint rivals to win Thursday’s fifth stage of the Paris-Nice ahead of Frenchman Arnaud Demare.

French Quick-Step Floors rider Julian Alaphilippe retained the leader’s maillot jaune a day after securing a dominant time-trial victory at Mont Brouilly, near Lyon.

After the threat of an initial six-man breakaway subsided, Lotto-Soudal’s Greipel patiently waited in the shadows of FDJ’s Demare before bursting clear in the final sprint at the end of the 199.5km stage from Quincie-en-Beaujolais to Bourg-de-Peage.

The 34-year-old made the most of a final opportunity for the sprinters in this year’s Race to the Sun, with a series of climbs awaiting the peloton on each of the concluding three stages.

“In this Paris-Nice, the goal was to win a stage and that’s done. I was very disappointed Tuesday after my sprint. I was furious with myself,” said Greipel, reflecting on the third stage that was surprisingly won by Ireland’s Sam Bennett of Bora-Hansgrohe.

Alaphilippe kept hold of his 33-second lead over Greipel’s teammate Tony Gallopin in the general classification, but warned of the challenges that could lie ahead.

“Another race starts now. Each of the three stages are going to bring surprises. Tomorrow [Friday] it could be a breakaway, like a fireworks display,” Alaphilippe said. “If I have to attack to defend my yellow jersey, I’ll do it.”

TIRRENO-ADRIATICO

AFP, MILAN, Italy

Britain’s Geraint Thomas handed embattled Team Sky a welcome boost at the Tirreno-Adriatico by soloing to victory on the mammoth 228km second stage on Thursday.

Thomas stayed with all the attacking moves in a thrilling finale, before escaping from a four-man group in the final kilometers to cross the line in 5 hours, 51 minutes, 44 seconds.

The chasing peloton, which had chased down his three former companions, crossed the finish about 9 seconds later.

“My attack wasn’t planned... We just wanted to be well positioned in the steep part of the climb,” Thomas said. “We rode really hard and when Bob [Jungels] attacked, I was feeling OK and Kwiato [Michal Kwiatkowski] said on the radio: ‘Have a go.’ That’s what I did. I didn’t think it was going to stick until 150m to go, but I’m pleased to get that win.”

Belgium’s Greg van Avermaet, the defending champion, finished fourth to take the leader’s maglia azzurra from BMC Racing teammate Damiano Caruso.

“I’m disappointed because it was a very good stage for me to win,” Van Avermaet said.

“It’s nice to be in the leader’s jersey, but this is due to the strong performance of the team in yesterday’s team time trial,” he said. “The team is doing well — to lead a big race is always a good thing.”