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2014 Tour de France Stage 5: Boom detonates win on chaotic day of cobbles

Lars Boom (Belkin) won his first Tour de France stage in Wednesday’s stage of wet cobbled mayhem, the first Tour victory for a Dutchman since Pieter Weening’s in 2005. Race leader Vincenzo Nibali’s third place gave Astana’s Italian big gaps over his GC rivals. Reigning champion and pre-race favourite Chris Froome (Great Britain/Sky) crashed out.

The riders were soggy and tense at the start in Ypres, Belgium, even though the race organizers had eliminated two of the day’s nine sections of cobbles. Nine riders formed a breakaway in the first five kilometres.

Soon the day’s motif of crashes adjacent to World War I cemeteries began. Before the cobbles started with 67 km remaining, nearly every notable sprinter and several of the GC contenders hit the wet pavement. Froome’s second wreck of the day, following his crash yesterday, saw the winner of the 2013 edition climb off his bike.

The slightly pared-down escape entered the first section of cobbles with an advantage of 2:15. Nibali, Alberto Contador (Spain/Tinkoff-Saxo) and Peter Sagan (Slovakia/Cannondale) created a gap on Alejandro Valverde (Spain/Movistar) and Tejay Van Garderen (USA/BMC) but the peloton came back together before the second section.

It was on the second section, the Ennevelin Pont-Thibault, that the race began to become unraveled. Contador and Valverde fell back, and Astana had Lotto-Belisol and Boom’s Belkin squad to help drive the wedge in farther.

The escape was down to a quartet with four cobbled sections remaining. The yellow jersey group hitched on to the break with 28 km to go. There were 16 riders in the new lead bunch, four from Omega Pharma-QuickStep and three from Astana. Nibali and company had 1:09 over Contador’s group and 34 seconds over a gang including Andrew Talansky (USA/Garmin-Sharp). The gaps kept rising.

Nibali’s bunch kept being decanted, and it was Boom and the new Italian road champion along with his Astana teammate Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark) who emerged from the last section with a lead of 12 seconds over the nearest chasers. Boom lit the dynamite and moved away. At the finish the Dutchman, covered with mud, couldn’t have looked happier. Contador finished 2:30 behind Nibali.

The peloton might find Thursday’s flat 194 km course from Arras to Reims a blessing, rain or shine.

2014 Tour de France Stage 5
1) Lars Boom (The Netherlands/Belkin) 3:18:35
2) Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark/Astana) +0:19
3) Vincenzo Nibali (Italy/Astana) s.t.
108) Svein Tuft (Canada/Orica-GreenEdge) +13:51
118) Christian Meier (Canada/Orica-GreenEdge) +15:23

2014 Tour de France GC
1) Vincenzo Nibali (Italy/Astana) 20:26:46
2) Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark/Astana) +0:02
3) Peter Sagan (Slovakia/Cannondale) +0:44
140) Svein Tuft (Canada/Orica-GreenEdge) +32:36
144) Christian Meier (Canada/Orica-GreenEdge) +33:54