Australian Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis) won Stage 5 of the 2004 Tour de France in what proved to be a tactical showdown in the final mile against Jakob Piil (CSC), Magnus Backstedt (Alessio-Bianchi), Sandy Casar (FDJeux.com), and Thomas Voeckler (Brioches La Boulangere). A series of attacks and counter attacks on the last stretch worked to O'Grady's advantage as he made a final break for the finish line, just edging out Piil. With his fourth-place finish, French National Champion Thomas Voeckler was able to secure the yellow jersey, wresting it away from Lance Armstrong.
O'Grady Wins Stage 5
O'Grady Wins Stage 5
With a substantial margin of victory for the five leaders, the overall standings are now Voeckler in first, O'Grady in second, Casar in third, Backstedt in fourth, Pill in fifth, Armstrong in sixth, and U.S. Postal domestique George Hincapie rounding out the top seven.
At the seven mile mark, an attack group comprised of O'Grady, Piil, Backstedt, Casar, and Voeckler broke from the pack and never looked back, garnering a leadout of over 16 minutes. Much of that lead resulted from the various crashes that took place on the 123-mile route from Amiens to Chartres in France. Sporadic torrential race didn't make the route any easier.
With just under 56 miles left to go in the race, a major crash at the front of the peloton put the leaders far enough ahead that there was no chance of them being caught. Making a hard right turn, a Fassa Bortolo rider went down at the front of the pack, and a score of riders, including U.S. Postal's José Luis Rubiera and Manuel Beltran, as well as Liberty Seguros's Roberto Heras, hit the pavement. The pace of the peloton slowed and the leaders were able to extend their advantage to just about 16 minutes.
Another crash in the peloton later in the race took down green jersey-wearer Robbie McEwen and white jersey wearer Matthias Kessler of T-Mobile.
Despite a continual leading effort by U.S. Postal, the peloton was unable to catch the leaders, finishing 12:30 behind O'Grady, putting Voekler 9:35 over Armstrong in the general classification standings.
Armstrong and company will begin chipping away at that time differential Friday in Stage 6 of the Tour de France as the peloton weaves its way 123 miles from Bonneval to Angers.
2004 Tour de France Standings: Stage 5
1. Stuart O'Grady (Aus)
2. Jakob Piil (DK)
3. Sandy Casar (F)
4. Thomas Voeckler (F)
5. Magnus Backstedt (SWE)