"The Gorilla" André Greipel sprints to victory in stage 5 of Paris-Nice, beating Milano-Sanremo champion Arnaud Démare in Bourg-de-Péage.

The sprinter known as “the Gorilla,” André Greipel, sprinted to victory in stage 5 of Paris-Nice, beating Milano-Sanremo champion Arnaud Démare to the line in Bourg-de-Péage, France Thursday. Lotto-Soudal’s German won the long, grinding sprint into a headwind, jumping off of the FDJ rider’s wheel at the perfect moment. LottoNL-Jumbo’s Dylan Groenewegen finished third in the 199.5km stage.

“It’s always nice to win a stage in Paris-Nice; it’s the second time now. It’s an important race as well with all the good sprinters,” Greipel said. “I was very disappointed Tuesday after my sprint. I was furious with myself.”

Top 10, stage 5

Top-10 overall

With a bunch sprint opportunity on the table, the peloton was sure to bring back the early breakaway with time to spare. The final four men off the front, Pierre-Luc Perichon, Axel Domont, Remi Di Gregorio, and Natnael Berhane, were caught with a little less than 15km to go.

Crosswinds threatened to split the field late in the stage, but the pandemonium that defined the race’s early stages did not materialize.

Instead, Katusha-Alpecin drove the tempo into the final kilometers. Faced with a headwind, most of the sprinters lost their lead-out men.

“I would say the last seven, eight kilometers was quite tricky. With a block headwind it was tricky to stay up front,” Greipel added. “It was not a real lead-out anymore with a block headwind. I managed to wait as long as possible and do a good sprint to the line.”

Groenewegen looked to have the sprint sewed up as he accelerated up the left barriers with about 200 meters to go. Démare was right on his wheel, followed by Trek-Segafredo’s John Degenkolb. However, Degenkolb bobbled momentarily, opening the door for Greipel to hop into the Frenchman’s slipstream. As Groenewegen faded, faced with the headwind, Greipel unleashed a furious acceleration up the opposite side of the road, late, but just in time to win the day.

“It was pretty hectic,” Groenewegen said. “I had no choice and had to go early. When Greipel passed me, I noticed immediately that he was stronger today. If you lose because someone is stronger, you have to deal with it. We can be satisfied with a third place in this field.”

Friday’s stage 6 should not be so friendly to the sprinters. The race from Aubagne to Fayence features six categorized climbs over the 193.5km route, including two circuits around the finish town, each of which includes the category 1 Col de Bourigaille.

“Another race starts now. Each of the three stages are going to bring surprises. Tomorrow [Friday] it could be a breakaway, like a fireworks display,” said race leader Alaphilippe. “If I have to attack to defend my yellow jersey, I’ll do it.”

Stage 5 results

General classification