There is no stopping Peter Sagan on this Paris-Nice. Already winner of stage 3 in Aurillac, the 20-year-old Slovak struck again in Aix-en-Provence, surging with two kilometres to go to overpower the best riders in the peloton and confirm what a sheer talent he is.Holder of a green jersey he is now ideally placed to take all the way to Nice, the Liquigas youngster stormed towards the line ahead of Mirco Lorenzetto (Lampre) and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse dâ€™Epargne), who now trails Alberto Contador by 20 seconds in the overall standings. The stage was a very nervous one throughout and also allowed Amael Moinard (Cofidis) to seize the mountain classification polka-dot jersey.
Champion sets the tone
The start was given at 13:02 to 165 riders. Steve Pauwels (Team Sky) did not start. Several attacks took place early on, and notably on the Col de Murs (2nd cat, km 40), when French champion Dimitri Champion broke on his own. In the climb, Amael Moinard (Cofidis) collected five points to join Laurent Mangel (SAU) at the top of the mountains classification. Mangel himself belonged to a group of some 30 riders who lost ground in the climb. The group also included Tony Martin (HTC).
The French keep moving
Champion was caught at kilometre 55. While Borut Bozic (Vacansoleil) and Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas) called it a day, Maxime Bouet emulated team-mate Champion when he moved at kilometre 59. Joined by six other riders, Bouet was also reined in (km 72) but passed the baton to another French rider, Pierrick Fedrigo (Bbox), who attacked on the Cote de Lacoste.
Splits and breaks
Fedrigo was caught after the Cote de Bonnieux â€“ in which Moinard secured the polka-dot jersey -, shortly before the first intermediate sprint in Lourmarin. The sprint was won by Thomas Voeckler (BBOx), ahead of Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse dâ€™Epargne) and David Millar (Garmin). The next man to give it a go (km 97) was Leonardo Duque (Cofidis).
As the peloton kept splitting in several little bunches, three riders surged at km 104 â€“ Sylvain Calzati (Sky), Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) and Volodymir Gustov (Cervelo). They were joined 10 kms later by Reine Taaramae (Cofidis), who eventually returned in the peloton.
AG2R split the peloton
Barredo, Calzati and Gustov were caught (km 135) after AG2R, active all day, sped up the pace at the front of the peloton, splitting it again. Riders like Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) or Voeckler were trapped in the echelon. As the leading group of 50 riders stormed into Aix, Peter Sagan (Liquigas) surged two kilometres from the line and went on to win his second stage in this Paris-Nice after stage 3 in Aurillac.
Alberto Contador retained his overall lead with a 20 seconds lead over Alejandro Valverde.
â€śIt was a terrible stage. We tried to control the breaks for100 kms but itâ€™s impossible for one team to control a race like Paris-Nice. Sagan is a very strong rider and Iâ€™m sure he will very quickly be a rival to watch in future races. Tomorrow is another hard stage with 220 kms. I may be the one in the yellow jersey but Iâ€™m not the only one who can do something tomorrow.â€ť
1. Peter Sagan (Slovakia, Liquigas)
2. Mirco Lorenzetto (Ita, Lampre)
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spain, Caisse dâ€™Epargne)
4. Mathieu Ladagnous (France, FDJeux)
5. Jens Voigt (Germany, Saxo Bank)
Slovakia’s Peter Sagan (Liquigas) wins the 5th stage in Aix-en-Provence.
The youngest rider in the race already won in Aurillac.
The Slovak leads Le Mevel by 50 metres.
Sagan is alone in the front with 1.5 km to go.
Every day before the stage, Bernard Hinault gives his views about the dayâ€™s stage and the riders to watch :
â€śContador did not take the lead we could expect, he kept the same gap with his rivals on the whole climb. To me, he did not have what it took to do any better and the cold since the start of this Paris-Nice is probably the reason. Everybody is suffering from the cold and a violent effort in such conditions really burns your lungs, believe me. Contador has a team to help him and there are still a lot of climbs on which he can impose his rule but he cannot afford to be relaxed. The only solution now is to harass him. Luis-Leon Sanchez and Alejandro Valverde are in the same team so, logically, they should attack him in turn. Thatâ€™s the only way.â€ť