Big day for van Avermaet in France

Belgian Greg van Avermaet won stage five of the Tour de France on Wednesday to take the yellow jersey and open up a formidable lead at the top of the general classification.

The 31-year-old BMC Racing rider was part of an early breakaway in the first mountainous stage of the race, and was able to maintain his charge all the way to the finish line.

Van Avermaet now enjoys more than a five-minute lead over all of the title contenders in the overall standings – including defending champion Chriss Froome, who finished in a group alongside rival Nairo Quintana.

Despite his big lead, however, the Belgian is not expected to be a serious threat for the overall title, although the manner of his victory would have come as a surprise to many.

After forming part of a nine-rider breakaway, Van Avermaet led the peloton by as much as 16 minutes at one point, with only countryman Thomas de Gendt able to stay with him.

Even de Gendt was dropped after the ascent of Col du Perthus, allowing Van Avermaet to ride the final 17km solo to the finish line.

De Gendt would take second, more than two minutes back, followed by Rafal Majka in third.

Team Sky and Movistar were eventually able to raise the pace, breaking up the peloton as they moved to reduce the deficit for their title contenders Froome and Quintana.

Quintana tried to shake Froome close to the finish line and eke out an advantage, but Team Sky were able to respond and nullify the threat.

Stage five results

1. Greg van Avermaet (Bel/BMC Racing) 5hrs 31mins 36secs
2. Thomas de Gendt (Bel/Lotto) 2mins 34secs
3. Rafal Majka (Pol/Tinkoff) 5mins 4secs
4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa/Katusha) same time
5. Daniel Martin (Ire/Etixx-Quick-Step) 5mins 7secs
6. Bartosz Huzarski (Pol/BORA) same time
7. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra/Etixx-Quick-Step)
8. Adam Yates (GB/Orica)
9. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky)
10. Tejay van Garderen (US/BMC Racing)

General classification after stage five

1. Greg van Avermaet (Bel/ BMC Racing) 25hrs 34mins 46secs
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra/Etixx-Quick-Step) 5mins 11secs
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Movistar) 5mins 13secs
4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa/Katusha) 5mins 14secs
5. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) 5mins 17secs
6. Warren Barguil (Fra/Giant) same time
7. Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar)
8. Fabio Aru (Ita/Astana)
9. Pierre Rolland (Fra/Cannondale)
10. Daniel Martin (Ire/Etixx-Quick-Step)