Carlos Betancur won stage 5 of Paris-Nice Thursday in Rive-de-Gier, France. Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale) initiated a late escape from which he won the 153-kilometer leg from Crêches-sur-Saône.
Bobby Jungels (Trek Factory Racing) was second and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) was third.
“I knew it would be quite a hard stage, the last climb suited me quite well and I knew the final descent,” said Betancur. “In a three-man sprint I had a good chance. I’m pretty good when it’s a small group.
“I still need to lose weight but I’ve got power.”
Overnight leader Geraint Thomas (Sky) defended his overall lead and holds a three-second advantage on John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano). Stage 4 winner Tom-Jelte Slagter (Garmin-Sharp) is third, at four seconds.
Five riders went on the attack early in Thursday’s stage: Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling), Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Matthew Busche (Trek Factory Racing), Gorka Izaguirre (Movistar) and Brice Feillu (Bretagne-Séché Environnement). With Chavanel just 1:10 down on GC, the group could only push out a gap of 2:30.
After the breakaway was neutralized, Laurent Didier (Trek Factory Racing) attacked from the peloton on the Côte de Sainte-Catherine. Stefan Denifl (IAM Cycling) countered 15km from the finish and Nibali bridged across with 12.5km remaining to take the front on the descent. Thomas followed into third wheel and the Sicilian’s acceleration strung the group out single-file on the rough, single-lane road down from the 12.5km-long Cat. 2 climb.
When Nibali backed off the accelerator, Betancur took the bit and rode away on his own. Fuglsang and Jungels bridged across and with 8.5km to go, the three leaders held onto a handful of seconds.
With 3.5km to go, the gap was 10 seconds and Omega Pharma was taking a major interest in seeing the group caught. It was for not, however, as the leading trio held off the chasing group, with Betancur taking the sprint from Jungels.
Paris-Nice continues Friday with the 221km sixth stage, from Saint-Saturnin-lès-Avignon to Fayence. The stage includes four categorized climbs in the final 57km and a Cat. 2 hilltop finish in Fayence.