Belkin's Lars Boom claimed a stunning victory in a severely rainy Stage 5 of the 2014 Tour de France, but Vincenzo Nibali stayed in the yellow jersey as he finished an impressive third behind teammate Jakob Fuglsang.
Defending champion Chris Froome crashed twice—after a fall also on Tuesday—and was forced to pull out of the race as Nibali made time on all his competitors, including Alberto Contador.
Stage 5 had been mooted beforehand as one of the Tour's most treacherous due to its nine cobbled sections with Contador admitting anxiety, per Matt Westby of Sky Sports:
"I will cross my fingers for tomorrow - it will be a really difficult day," Contador said. "The weather forecast is very bad. Without bad weather it will be a complicated stage, but with rain it will be like ice skating with bikes."
The appalling weather forced organisers to remove two of those sections before the start of the day's racing.
Indeed, there were crashes galore amongst the peloton in the 152.5-kilometre stage as the rain and the cobbles forced the riders to string out into several disparate groups.
|2014 Tour de France Stage 5 Results|
Nibali was joined by two Astana teammates in the front group along with Boom as the race reached its climax. The Dutchman eventually broke away at persistent breathtaking speed to claim the stage—his first ever in the Tour de France.
The Italian rider attacked the cobbles with great gusto and managed to increase the gap to his main contenders, which before the day's racing had stood at just two seconds.
Green-jersey wearer Peter Sagan beat out Fabian Cancellara in a sprint for fourth place, and the Slovak now sits third in the general classification.
|2014 Tour de France Points Classification (Green Jersey)|
|1||Peter Sagan||Cannondale||185 pts|
|2||Marcel Kittel||Giant-Shimano||135 pts|
|3||Bryan Coquard||Europcar||121 pts|
|4||Alexander Kristoff||Katusha||82 pts|
|5||Vincenzo Nibali||Astana||53 pts|
|6||Mark Renshaw||O.Ph.-Q-Step||50 pts|
|7||Arnaud Demare||FDJ.fr||44 pts|
|8||Greg Van Avermaet||BMC Racing||42 pts|
|9||Ramunas Navardauskas||Garmin-Sharp||42 pts|
|10||Michal Kwiatowski||O.Ph.-Q-Step||40 pts|
Contador lost almost three minutes as he struggled while Team Sky's Richie Porte—now the team leader after Froome's crash—lost just over two minutes after some fine work from Geraint Thomas to keep the Australian rider in touch.
|2014 Tour de France Overall Leaderboard (Yellow Jersey)|
|1||Vincenzo Nibali||Astana||20h 26' 46''|
|2||Jakob Fuglsang||Astana||20h 26' 48''||+ 00' 02''|
|3||Peter Sagan||Cannondale||20h 27' 30''||+ 00' 44''|
|4||Michal Kwiatowski||O.Ph-Q-Step||20h 27' 36''||+ 00' 50''|
|5||Fabian Cancellara||Trek||20h 28' 03''||+ 01' 17''|
|6||Jurgen Van Den Broeck||Lotto-Belisol||20h 28' 31''||+ 01' 45''|
|7||Tony Gallopin||Lotto-Belisol||20h 28' 31''||+ 01' 45''|
|8||Richie Porte||Sky||20h 28' 40''||+ 01' 54''|
|9||Andrew Talansky||Garmin-Sharp||20h 28' 51''||+ 02' 05''|
|10||Alejandro Valverde||Movistar||20h 28' 57''||+ 02' 11''|
Froome fell once early in the day but was able to make his way back to the peloton with the help of four of his Team Sky teammates.
However, a second fall before the first of the cobbled sections spelt the end for the defending champion. He attempted to get back on his bike but was clearly in serious discomfort and eventually abandoned, as confirmed by Team Sky:
Thus, Stage 5 of the 2014 Tour de France delivered as much incident as many had predicted with a favourite abandoning, crashes aplenty, a yellow-jersey performance and a stunning maiden victory for Boom.
|2014 Tour de France Polka-Dot Jersey Standings|
|2||Blel Kadri||AG2R La Mondiale||5|
It is now almost impossible to pick a favourite for the general classification, but Nibali has certainly laid down a marker early on.
The riders will be relieved to leave Stage 5 behind as they move on to Stage 6, which sees a relatively flat 195-km route from Arras to Reims.