On stage 5 of Paris-Nice, the longest of the race, Jan Tratnik almost managed to outwit the bunch. He was just 50 meters close to succeeding, but it was then Niccolo Bonifazio (Total-Direct Energie) who won a hectic sprint, in which Marc Sarreau took tenth place. Thibaut Pinot and Rudy Molard finished in the same time and can now fully focus on the last three stages, which suit them much more.
“We wanted to save energy for the weekend” Philippe Mauduit
When they rolled in to the start this Thursday, the riders of Paris-Nice knew they had many hours of saddle ahead of them. There were no less than 227 kilometers to complete to get to the finish, in Côte-Saint-André. However, it did not stop Jan Tratnik (Bahrain-McLaren), Anthony Turgis (Total-Direct Energie), Ryan Mullen (Trek-Segafredo) and Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-La Mondiale) to form the day’s breakaway after just five kilometers. The peloton decided to take it easy for an hour, allowing the leaders to create a seven minutes-gap. At mid-race, the sprinters’ teams then started to increase the pace not to take any risk, and a great fight could then set in between the two groups.
“The goal for us today was mainly to enjoy this quiet day”, explained Philippe Mauduit later. “I think everyone needed it. We wanted to have the calmest day possible, to save energy thinking of the weekend to come, to get there with the freshest legs possible”. Other teams were much more interested in the stage of the day and did not spare their energy against the leading four, who put on a good fight in the last hour of racing. The leading four then reduced to a leading duo with Tratnik and Gougeard, before the Slovenian decided to go solo in the last ten kilometres. The Bahrain-McLaren rider’s performance did not end up with the win though as he was caught 50 meters from the line by the sprinters, and firstly by Niccolo Bonifazio, the stage winner. Marc Sarreau placed tenth in this hectic sprint.
“Tomorrow is already a very difficult stage” Philippe Mauduit
“Marc has worked a lot since the start of the race,” said Philippe. “His opponents are usually more protected by their teammates. But we can’t afford that. On the opposite, Marc is one of those who had to work a lot in the echelons. He sacrificed himself a few times for his teammates. So, today, when it was time to stand on the pedals, he had a bit less energy than his rivals, but he took his chance and we must admit that he did it well”. Rudy Molard and Thibaut Pinot, his two leaders, also completed the stage in this bunch of around sixty riders. “Everybody was tired in the peloton, and we saw it in the finale today; many got dropped”, said Philippe. “We were careful and attentive enough not to lose time stupidly. We should also remind that there were 2,600 vertical meters and 227 kilometers of racing today, plus nine kilometers of neutralization at the start. This kind of day leaves its mark on the bodies, which were already quite tired, but it is like that for everyone.”
After trying to refuel the tank as much as possible, the team can now look forward to the final part of Paris-Nice, which suits its leaders quite well. “After three very demanding days in the wind, we are heading towards three very demanding days in the hills,” said Philippe as a conclusion. “Tomorrow is already a very difficult stage. We will be on rough roads, with gravel, and which will sometimes be exposed to the wind. Then, the finale is very hard, and some riders will be able to take advantage of it to attack and grab a few seconds for the general classification. There may be a fight on the last categorized climb, just before the descent to the line”. A total of six climbs will be on the menu on stage 6, starting from Sorgues and finishing in Apt after 161 kilometers.