The Tour de France headed for the hills on Wednesday, and Belgium enjoyed a one-two in a hot and difficult fifth stage. Greg van Avermaet finished ahead of Thomas De Gendt to take his second ever Tour stage victory.
Belgium's Greg van Avermaet claimed victory in the mountain stage of the Tour de France from Limoges to Lioran to take the yellow jersey ahead of compatriot Thomas De Gendt.
The BMC rider took the fifth stage after nine riders broke clear of the peloton. He held a 16-minute lead at one point, but the 31-year-old needed to hold off De Gendt on the penultimate climb of a hot and demanding 216 km in the scenic Cantal region of central France.
Van Avermaet finished 2:34 ahead of De Gendt, who took consolation by securing the polka dot jersey after taking maximum points over three of the six climbs on the stage menu.
Defending champion Chris Froome had another incident-free ride but is now five minutes behind Van Avermaet in the general classification. The defending champion finished in a group alongside rival Nairo Quintana. But there were some notable absentees in the select group of 19 riders.
Giro d'Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) was distanced on the same climb as overnight leader Peter Sagan before conceding more than eight minutes to his rivals. Meanwhile, Spaniard Alberto Contador – the two-time Tour winner from Tinkoff who crashed badly on the opening stage – lost touch with the main pack on the last of five climbs to lose 33 seconds.
Van Avermaet leads France’s Julian Alaphilippe (Movistar) by 5:11 in the overall standings, with Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) a further two seconds back. Rodriguez is up to fourth, one second behind his compatriot and three seconds ahead of a cluster of big name riders including Froome, Quintana and Italian debutant Fabio Aru (Astana).