Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) won the 5th stage of the Paris-Nice after a late solo break. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) took the bunch sprint for 2nd and race leader Michael Matthews (Orica-Greenedge) was 3rd.
It was a tough stage today as the 197km from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Salon-de-Provence included 5 categorised climbs, with Mont-Ventoux included among the collection of ascents. An early breakaway of 8 riders quickly opened up an 8-minute gap inside of the first 30km. The climbing then started and a natural selection began taking place as riders were dropped from the break and the peloton.
The race would continually splinter and then regroup on each climb and respective descent. After the final climb of the day was completed, there was just a sole survivor from the original break 1 minute up the road. The peloton had also shrunk to just 30 riders with Serge Pauwels present for our African Team.
Lutsenko took his chance to bridge across and then pass the sole escapee, to go in pursuit of victory alone. The peloton would regroup to 90 riders as they made their way to the finish but the Astana rider had 50 seconds on the pack and he would not be caught. Pauwels would follow the wheels of the sprinters to cross the line in 14th position.
Serge Pauwels – Rider
Today was not an easy day. The break went very early but with this course which included over 3000m of climbing and the ascent of Mont Ventoux, we knew it was going to be a hard day. The peloton broke a couple of times and then after the last climb we were left with only 20 – 25 riders before a big bunch came back in the final. We sprinted behind an Astana rider who got away in the final but for me the most important was that I felt good. There will be opportunities tomorrow and the next day so we will see what we can do.