Whatever you may think about the outcome of Stage 5 of the Tour de France one thing is certain, fortune favours the brave.
By
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

Vincenzo Nibali has always had a nose for chance, they don't call him the Shark of Messina for nothing, and he used that to sniff out a winning ride.

Already in yellow, Nibali rode like the Grand Tour winner he is, in front and marshalling his Astana troops with him. It was the kind of performance that wins Grand Tours.

As Eddy Merckx told Cyclingnews after the stage, "It was unbelievable what Nibali did today on the cobblestones. He was very good."

While there is a lot of racing to go, as of today it is now likely that the Astana captain will win the Tour. He looks dialled in after an early season where many questions about his fitness were left unanswered.

Those questions are all now answered.

But we should have known better, as an experienced Grand Tour campaigner at his career peak, Nibali was always going to be present when it mattered.

Still, there remains opportunity ahead for his challengers, among them Australia's Richie Porte, now wearing the mantle of team leader for Sky after Chris Froome came a cropper before even hitting the first of the cobbled sections.

On reflection, it's hard to see how Froome could have countered a rampant Nibali, who was riding at the front with the best cobbled riders in this year's Tour.

Froome is a great champion but for him there was always danger brewing on this stage, wet or dry.

Had he stayed upright throughout, his fate would in all likelihood be more like that of Tinkoff-Saxo's Alberto Contador, who now lies in 19th place, 2 minutes and 37 seconds behind Nibali.

Ultimately, Froome's Tour chances were always going to made or broken on the roads to Arenberg, and broken they were.

With 2011 champion Cadel Evans (BMC) absent, Australian fans had little to cheer for on the general classification, suddenly that has changed.

Now with Porte in the driver's seat at Sky, with the team that was designed to deliver a second Tour victory to Froome, his chance at a podium place is alive.

"It's a massive loss losing Chris," said Porte. "But he'll back hungrier than ever next year.

"Now I have an opportunity to go for as high a GC position as I can. It's a relief, personally, to have come through stages two and five OK, and I'm looking forward to heading into the mountains now."

Porte looked solid in the demanding conditions, his first really serious hit-out on the cobbles, and at less than two minutes behind Nibali maybe he can craft a similar winning ride when the roads better suit his talents.

This may be his only chance at fortune of his own, can he bite back?



SBS will broadcast and stream online all stages of the Tour de France LIVE. Click here to add the schedule times to your calendar.