With a crafty solo attack in the final hills of Paris-Nice stage 5, Astana's Alexey Lutsenko wins the day ahead of the sprinters.

It was a day for the opportunists, and Alexey Lutsenko made the most of it, beating some of the top sprinters at Paris-Nice with a bold solo win in stage 5. With a trip halfway up Mont Ventoux, Friday was in some ways a climber’s day, but the long run to the finish looked perfect for a sprinter like race leader Michael Matthews. However, his Orica – GreenEdge team and Katusha, left the chase too late, and the Astana escapee claimed his first victory of 2016.

“I attacked on the last climb and got 30-40 seconds,” Lutsenko said. “I rode the last 25km alone, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. It was very hard to ride alone. This is the most beautiful win since I won a stage at the Tour de Suisse.”

Top 10, stage 5

 

Top-10 overall

 

Early in the stage, a five-man break, including Antoine Duchesne (Direct Energie), Jesus Herrada (Movistar), Lars Boom (Astana), Arnaud Courteille (FDJ), and Stijn Vandenbergh (Etixx – Quick-Step), had a lead of more than seven minutes. After the Ventoux climb, the group was about five minutes up the road.

Lotto – Soudal’s André Greipel, who might have been a factor in the bunch sprint, abandoned early in the stage, suffering pain in his ribs, which were broken earlier this winter.

On the Côte de la Roque d’Anthéron, Duschesne made his move and soloed away from the break. Behind, Lutsenko attacked the peloton and bridged up to the Canadian leader. He soon dropped the Direct Energie rider. With 15km to go, Lutsenko’s lead was merely 39 seconds.

The field let the Kazahkstani rider dangle alone up until the final three kilometers, when Katusha begin to ramp up the pace, but the chase was too late. Plus, the riders in red might have been spent from pulling their sprinter back to the bunch after he was dropped on the climbs.

Lutsenko, 23, rode alone to victory, while the sprinters had to settle for a gallop to claim second place. Matthews kept yellow with a third-place finish on the day. “Today went according to plan,” the Aussie said. “None of the GC riders got away, and I could hold the jersey. This weekend? We’ll have to see how my legs are. The course suits me well, and I am climbing pretty well. If I have good enough legs to get to the bottom of the Madone, unless they really, really light it up, I think I can hold it. I need to give everything I have on that final climb.”

Saturday’s stage 6 should prove decisive in the race for the overall classification. The 177-kilometer day includes seven categorized climbs (all Cat. 1 or 2), and finishes atop La Madone d’Utelle, a 15.3km climb.

Stage 5 results

 

General classification

 

Points classification

 

Mountains classification

 

Team classification