Jesús leads polka dot competition after beautiful, 160km break through Mont Ventoux; José Joaquín falls during Chalet Reynard descent, moved by ambulance to hospital with knee wound, wrist pain with no fractures.
Kazakhstan’s Alexey Lutsenko (AST) surprised an outworn peloton in Salon-de-Provence, end of stage five in Paris-Nice (198km), after attacking through the downhill of the final climb of Sèze (Cat-1); reaching down solo leader Antoine Duchesne (DEN); and holding off the charge from a group that crossed the line 19” back. Ion Izagirre, the Movistar Team’s main hope overall, did not concede any time.
The day’s racing left a bittersweet taste to the Movistar Team. The long break by Jesús Herrada, 1st through the summit of the Mont Ventoux (Chalet Reynard) and keeping the front for more than 160km, was counteracted by the crash from José Joaquín Rojas into the descent of the day’s main climb, against a rock on the road. Moved by ambulance to a hospital nearby, with a wound to his knee and pain in his left wrist, more profound medical checks ruled out serious injuries on the latter. The Cieza-based rider had four stitches put in his leg and reached the team hotel with his right-hand elbow bandaged, also as a consequence of the crash.
Lutsenko’s solo victory propels him onto second place overall, with Ion Izagirre now sitting fifth as Michael Matthews (OGE) remains in the lead, while Herrada inherites the KOM jersey worn by Ion until yesterday. Both rankings will be at stake tomorrow during the Queen stage on French soil (177km), including seven categorized climbs and a long mountain-top finish in La Madone d’Utelle (Cat-1).
Jesús Herrada: “Today’s was a stage that already looked hard before the start. We had to make all breaks containing more than five or six riders and we countered that early move. Tinkoff and Sky worked hard not to let us go after the climb and it was hard to keep our gap alive. We were caught into that flat between the last two climbs, and I helped Rubén and Ion so they could get over the last one in good position. Later on, I chose to save energy for the upcoming, last two stages – plenty of work is still to be done.
“The KOM jersey? It wasn’t a goal pre-stage, but once I had made it into the break, I couldn’t let the points just go away. I feel this one jersey is already a reward to my work, I don’t see today’s contest going any further for me. There are still two demanding stages left, with tomorrow’s mountain-top finish being the most important one; we’ll give everything so our two leaders remain in contention, and hopefully win one of these.”
Tirreno: Valverde, Blues stay calm
Much less intricate was the development of things on stage three of Tirreno-Adriatico -176km from Castelnuovo to Montalto di Castro-, as Fernando Gaviria (EQS) won the day’s sprint following a race very much under control for Alejandro Valverde’s Movistar Team. The calm, consistent work from the likes of Amador, Sütterlin, Dowsett y Sutherland, excellent support for the flat from Chente and Jaimerena’s group, means the Spanish champion can move ahead and focus on tomorrow’s long ride towards the hills near Foligno, prelude to San Vicino’s mountain contest on Sunday.