World champion Peter Sagan claimed his second stage of the 2018 Tour de France after beating Sonny Colbrelli and Alejandro Valverde at the uphill finish of Stage 5 on Wednesday.
Defending champion Chris Froome of Team Sky and the other overall contenders finished in or close to the main group as overnight leader and Olympic road race champion Greg van Avermaet of BMC retained the yellow jersey.
Belgian Philippe Gilbert sparked the hostilities early on the uphill finish of the 204.5-kilometre ride from Lorient, but the Quick Step rider failed to open up a significant gap on the chasing bunch.
Van Avermaet, wearing the yellow jersey, then pulled to the front in a bid for the stage win as the finish line approached.
But the race leader was left powerless when Sagan powered past on his left. Colbrelli pushed the Slovakian all the way but, as he did on stage two, finished second best to Sagan.
“It was a really good sprint. Gilbert attacked and I was well placed. He went early and Colbrelli and I launched our sprint at the right moment. Sonny almost beat me but I crushed the pedals harder,” Sagan said.
UAE Team Emirates rider Dan Martin finished sixth and the Irishman was pleased to be in the mix during the latter part of the stage.
"I felt I had a chance in the last kilometre, but the legs just weren’t there for a sprint," Martin said. "I haven’t been training for a sprint, I have been training for the mountains.
"I was really happy to be up there with those guys. It slowed up with 400m to go and I thought about jumping, but there was a corner and I couldn’t go.
"It was a really difficult stage. Marco [Marcato], Rory [Sutherland] and Oliviero [Troia] did a great job of protecting me and I was in a good position all day."
Thursday’s sixth stage has a similar profile but a harder uphill finish in Mur de Bretagne where Sagan will probably struggle to take a third stage win.