Q&A with Laurenzo Lapage on Paris-Nice Stage Five

Thu 13 Mar 2014

A late race breakaway again stole the show at Paris-Nice with Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) winning a three-up sprint on stage five. Betancur bested Bob Jungels (Trek Factory Racing) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) to the line as the trio narrowly managed to hold off the chase group.

Bryan Coquard (Europcar) won the sprint for fourth, 2” behind Betancur, while Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) finished safely in the 59-strong chase group to retain the race lead. Although ORICA-GreenEDGE’s Michael Matthews elected not to contest the sprint, he was the Australian outfit’s best finisher in 13th place.

Five riders escaped from the peloton in the opening kilometres. Sylvain Chavanel (IAM), Matthew Busche (Trek Factory Racing), Brice Feillu (Bretagne-Séché Environnement), Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) and Jon Izaguirre (Movistar) quickly got to work to build their advantage over the Sky-led peloton. Only 19” outside the race lead, Bakelants’ presence in the move doomed the breakaway’s efforts. Sky kept the quintet between two and three minutes until they hit the Cote de Saint Martin en Haut.

Europcar and contributed to the pace making on the category three climb. By the time the peloton reached the summit, the gap had tumbled below the minute mark. Following the descent, the leaders had only 30” advantage as they entered the final circuit for the last 25 kilometres of the stage.

With the final ascent looming, the cooperation in the escape group began to dissolve. Chavanel attacked the breakaway and managed to evade the peloton until Laurent Didier (Trek Factory racing) attacked on the category two Cote de Saint Catherine, the final climb of the day.

The peloton first overtook Chavanel and then Didier en route to the summit of Saint Catherine. Didier’s catch was countered by Stefan Denifl (IAM), who was overtaken in a flurry of attacks just ahead of the summit. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Betancur pushed the pace over the climb but were unable to distance Thomas.

Betancur launched the race winning move on the descent, 9.1 kilometres from the finish. Fuglsang and Jungels were the only two able to respond. The trio gained a slim advantage that they were able to nurture all the way to the line. Jungels was the first to open the sprint, but Betancur was able to jump around him to claim the stage win.

Sport Director Laurenzo Lapage answers questions about the day from a team perspective below.

Q: What was the team plan for stage five?

We wanted to be in the early break with Jens Keukeleire or Simon Yates. If we made it to the finish with numbers and Gossy [Matt Goss] had made it over the top of the last climb, we would work for him. Bling [Michael Matthews] was our second option today.

Q: Anything interesting from the team perspective with the early action?

We missed the break, so we decided to focus on the finish. Again, we didn’t have the responsibility to chase. It was a controlled race until we hit the climbs.

Q: Can you talk through the action that began with the Cote de Saint Martin en Haut?

The climb was on a big road, but once we got over the top, we knew it was much more narrow. We had to be in a good position on the climb because after the summit, it would be almost impossible to move up.

Q: When the peloton began to split during the last 20km, what groups did our riders end up in?

We had already lost Gossy and Alba [Michael Albasini] by that point. Until two kilometres from the summit, we still had everyone in that front group. We lost Yates, Hayman and Docker over the top. That left us with Gerro, Keukeleire and Bling in the yellow jersey group when the action started over the top of the climb.

Q: Why didn’t Matthews contest the sprint today?

He wasn’t in a good position. Thinking about the stages coming up, it was better not to take too many risks.

Q: Why has Simon Gerrans has withdrawn from the race?

It was a pre-planned withdrawal. He was only scheduled to do five stages. He was sick before Paris-Nice and his allergies typically him a bit during this time in the season. He’s heading home to recover and train more specifically for Milan-Sanremo.