The first mountain stage of the race, Stage 5 takes the riders across the Alps to Valmorel for a summit finish but don’t mistake this for the high mountains, this is a gentle introduction to the mountains although enough to provide a worthy winner.
If the time trial provided plenty of information on the relative form of riders, now it’s time for a ramp test.
Stage 4 wrap: Tony Martin won as expected but imagine if he not been bothered by stomach problems, his margin could have been even bigger and he’d be in the lead now. Rohan Dennis is a revelation. He’s been tipped for big things as whilst Aussie peers like Jack Bobridge and Luke Durbridge are seen as time trial specialists who can branch out into more, it’s said Dennis is the complete package and can climb well too. But don’t put too much pressure on him. Remember this time last year? Wilco Keldermann finished in fourth after an even longer time trial, the Dutch neo-pro got a great result and continues to progress but has yet to win big so hopefully Dennis can enjoy his day. Dennis was asked in a TV interview if he’d ride the Tour but he’s surely too young… although Garmin-Sharp might like him for the first week and the team time trial stage?
The stage was billed as a duel between Chris Froome and Alberto Contador but El Pistolero found his trigger was jammed, he says it’s allergies and the late and sudden spring means a high pollen count is getting to many. It’s not new but the Spaniard seemed allergic to his time trial position, shuffling on the saddle every few pedal strokes. Team Sky’s strong performance is even better news for Chris Froome. I’ve seen a few people talking up rivalry from Richie Porte but the pair train together regularly and I can’t see it. Instead it bodes well for Team Sky in the team time trial of the Tour de France although Froome’s odds for July have improved to the point where you’re wondering if they’ll be any suspense. But we’ve yet to see how he’s climbing although I think the answer is obvious. French TV put a question to him yesterday saying “you’re now the favourite to win the Tour de France” and he politely replied “merci” or thanks in French rather than dance around the idea.
Lieuwe Westra had a bad day, hopefully it’s his injuries and he’ll recover for July but he lost four minutes and Jurgen Van Den Broeck had a bad day too. Pierre Rolland lost two and half minutes, will he settle for this? His build makes him look like more than a climber but he could be limited to the mountains. Watch him this week.
The Route: the stage is short at 139km, indeed so short that the route has a loop where the race returns to the start in Grésy after 21km to add more kilometres. The Côte de Trévignin is 4.4 km climb at 6.6 %, a meaningful climb to lift the race up onto the Plateau des Bauges and crossing the route of Stage 20 of the Tour, the final mountain stage. The Col du Frêne is a tough climb… if tackled from the other side. Here it’s barely a mountain pass on this side and acts as an exit for the race to descend towards Albertville.
The Finish: there are two roads up but this takes the south-eastern way via Le Bois and the climb is 12.7km long at 7%. It’s a big wide regular road, the classic kind you find in the Alps to ferry coachloads of skiers to a resort. The route twists and turns with a series of hairpin bends near the finish, an ideal point for attacks where riders can exploit the gradient. It’s uphill all the way to the line but, despite the profile above, looks to level off a bit before the line.
The Scenario: the short distance should incite an early breakaway and the Côte de Trévignin is ideal for a move to go clear although their could be fight across the plateau to get into the day’s breakaway. The main thing to note is the final climb is 12km and after 120km, should take 30 minutes, it’s much shorter than, say, Alpe d’Huez and so leaves the result open to more riders.
Can Rohan Dennis hold on to the lead? There’s only five seconds between him and Chris Froome and we’ve yet to see how the Australian climbs but let’s note expect too much. The finish could suit him as it’s not so steep but for a neo-pro one day in the Dauphiné lead is already impressive. In some ways Sky might not want to assume the lead yet so that Garmin-Sharp can do the work every day but Chris Froome could well do with some more experience in leading a race and all that goes with it to add to his Tour de Romandie experience. Perhaps though Richie Porte could get something and we’ll how the other Sky riders are climbing. Maybe their mountain train makes an appearance?
It’s also the chance to see how others are doing. In particular what of Joaquin Rodriguez and Alejandro Valverde? The finish is ideal for Valverde if he can follow the moves on the way up and deploy his finishing speed. For outside picks the finish isn’t ideal for a pure climber, it’s relatively short and fast so I’d discount the likes of Kenny Elissonde, instead look at Rein Taaramae who has been active in race already. His Cofidis team mate Daniel Navarro had a good time trial and should be climbing better.
Weather: sunshine turning to rain with potentially a storm. But the early start and finish every day could be a saving grace for those who don’t like the rain. And should it rain, the temperature is forecast to rise steadily throughout the day, going from 20°C to a fine 24°C during the day.
TV: tune in for the last hour to watch the approach to the final climb as the breakaway and bunch approach.
Top 20 Overall
1 Rohan Dennis (Aus) Garmin-Sharp 12:40:00
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:05
3 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:00:26
4 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling 0:00:32
5 Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 0:00:33
6 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:55
7 David Veilleux (Can) Team Europcar 0:01:09
8 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team NetApp-Endura 0:01:11
9 Stef Clement (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling Team 0:01:14
10 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team 0:01:26
11 Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:01:30
12 Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:01:33
13 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha 0:01:40
14 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:01:41
15 Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:01:45
16 Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack Leopard 0:01:49
17 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack Leopard 0:01:52
18 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:01:56
19 Alexandre Geniez (Fra) FDJ 0:02:05
20 Ben Hermans (Bel) RadioShack Leopard