Tour de France 2019
European champion Trentin opened up the sprint after being launched by his Mitchelton-Scott teammate Daryl Impey, but Sagan surged through on the other side of the road to win by a bike length.
Van Aert’s second place earned the Jumbo-Visma rider six bonus seconds and slashed his deficit to 14 seconds on yellow jersey Julian Alaphilippe of Deceuninck-QuickStep. The Frenchman sneaked into the top 10 but didn’t have the sprinting legs to push Sagan for the win.
Italy’s Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Merida) and Belgium’s Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) completed the top five while Australia’s Michael Matthews stuttered to seventh despite some hefty work by his Sunweb team in the closing kilometres.
Strong tempo setting by Sagan’s Bora team split the peloton on the penultimate climb of the day, ensuring that Stage 4 winner Elia Viviani and all the pure sprinters were taken out of contention.
Portuguese veteran Rui Costa, the 2013 world champion, put in a brave solo dig inside the final 10km but the UAE Team Emirates rider was reeled in with 2km remaining.
Sagan looked to be positioned well back in the pack but his experience shone through, the 29-year-old powering through when it mattered to take his first win of the race and move 47 points clear at the top of the green jersey standings.
There were no changes in any of the other classifications with Van Aert retaining the white jersey as best young rider and Belgium’s Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) extending his lead in the polka dot jersey standings after starring in the day’s break.
The consistently undulating stage through the forests of the Vosges and the manicured vineyards of Alsace featured four categorised climbs and numerous leg-sapping hills.
A fierce battle ensued for the opening 30km with Lotto Soudal pair Thomas De Gendt and Wellens taking it in turns to force moves.
Eventually Wellens was the instigator of a move that stuck, the Belgian in polka dots joined by Germany’s Mads Würtz Schmidt (Katusha-Alpecin), Australia’s Simon Clarke (EF Education First) and Latvia’s Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo).
The quartet never built up an advantage of much more than two minutes, largely thanks to the patrolling pace-setting of Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team on the front of the peloton.
Wellens picked up maximum points on the first two climbs, the Cat.3 Cote de Grendelbruch and the Cat.2 Cote du Haut-Koenigsbourg, to consolidate his lead in the KOM competition.
In between those climbs, the intermediate sprint was won by Australian veteran Clarke before Italy’s Elia Viviani pipped Sagan when the pack darted through, reducing the Slovakian’s virtual lead in the green jersey competition by a single digit. Not that this would matter come Colmar.
The race exploded into action on the Cat.2 Cote de Trois-Epis with 40km remaining when the peloton split in two and the break broke apart.
After Würtz Schmidt was the first escapee to feel the heat, Skujins rode clear of Wellens and Clarke – the Latvian national champion cresting the summit with a small gap over the Belgian in pursuit.
Behind, Bora’s hefty pacing paid dividends when the likes of Viviani and fellow pure sprinters Caleb Ewan, Alexander Kristoff and Dylan Groenewegen all distanced on the climb – further improving the chances of Sagan for the stage win.