A long day with a sneaky surprise in store at the end as the hardest climb of the day isn’t a categorised climb. The Col de Gineste comes fifteen minutes from the finish. It’s nothing savage but provides some spice and scenery.
With crashes and climbs we’ve yet to have a full bunch sprint with the superstars and today could be the day.
Stage 4 Review
Orica-Greenedge made news with the bus, now their train took the stage. The winning margin was 0.75 seconds, and it put Simon Gerrans in yellow.
The course was deliberately short and didn’t head for the hills and their twisting roads. It kept the time gaps close, 16 teams in one minute. Relatively BMC Racing and Belkin lost but they didn’t lose much time 26 seconds and 37 seconds respectively. Europcar’s losses are more significant, surrendering 1.13 and a minute to many GC rivals. Note Sky didn’t dominate either.
Saddest story of the day was Ted King’s ejection from the race. Listed as seven seconds outside the time cut there’s been confusion over the accuracy of his finishing time. King’s problem is his injuries, so much that he couldn’t ride his time trial bike. But his solitude did it for him, there’s often a safety in numbers scenario where a big group in a mountain stage gets saved for the day but a lone rider in a time trial stage is another story. Cannondale tried to appeal but the jury of race commissaires were intransigent (Update: reports said they did but the President of the Jury says they didn’t)
Stage 5 Preview
- Km 22.0 – Côte de Châteauneuf-Grasse 1.4km at 8.4% – category 3
- Km 93.0 – Col de l’Ange 1.6km at 4.1% – category 4
- Km 154.0 – Côte de la Roquebrussanne 3.5km at 4.2% – category 4
- Km 198.0 – Côte des Bastides 5.7km at 3.1% – category 4
- Bonus surprise climb
228.5km is a long ride especially if it’s all going to end in a bunch sprint but for viewers and riders alike it’s a scenic day on the bike with a mix of roads. It’s the kind of day where you’d like to take your time, for example an early stop in Grasse, the home of the perfume industry where they make real scents from natural oils as opposed to the synthetic chemicals used in most products.
It’s more up and down the profile suggests and there are more climbs that the four picked out by ASO. Indeed the Col de la Gineste is probably the hardest climb of the day and the most important too but it’s not categorised…
With 20km to go the race crosses Cassis and starts the Col de la Gineste. The climb comes in two parts, the first is 2.0km long and rises at 6%. Then it levels out to drag across the Plateau de Carpiagne for 4km where exposed roads await before rising for 1,500m at 5%. It’s all on a wide road and, after a bend at the start, in a long straight line most of the way.
The descent has several bends, nothing outrageous but enough to line out the bunch and make a chase hard. The closer the finish gets, the easier this work becomes.
The race passes the Stade Vélodrome with 2.5km to go, and then a wide junction where the race turns left and races under the 1km sign towards the sea. Another wide left-hander and the finish awaits after 500m.
Pierre Rolland’s mountain lead is safe because Orica-Greenedge’s Simon Clarke could take maximum points all day and it wouldn’t matter. Plus he’ll be on duty to help Gerrans stay in yellow. A break could go but I think it’s still to early to stick. Orica-Greenedge don’t want to give up the yellow jersey and besides they’ve got Matthew Goss although as much as the team are on a roll it’s not time to bank on him yet.
Several sprinters teams have yet to get a win too. None more so than Cannondale who will hope the final climb blunts the legs of the others so Peter Sagan can win. With Mark Cavendish recovering from a lung infection he’s an uncertain pick but write him off and he wins. The safer option would be Lotto-Belisol’s André Greipel as he’s got the ability to get over the climb and a team in his service. Argos-Shimano’s Marcel Kittel‘s very fast but very big too and might find that climb too much and maybe they go to Plan John Degenkolb?
Weather: the chance of rain early but getting sunnier and warmer. The wind can howl here and could be decisive over the exposed Col de Gineste. But a 20km/h S-W headwind awaits, not selective enough.
TV: live coverage starts soon after 2.00pm Euro time. Now a race can always pack a surprise but the suspense today is likely to come at the end. Tune in from around 4.30pm to get the Côte des Bastides and then the Col de Gineste as the race approaches Marseille.
The Tour has a mixed history with the city of Marseille. It has grown into France’s second biggest city and famous for it’s football team which plays in the Stade Vélodrome although they’ve long since removed the cycling track. The race visited regular for years until an incident in 1971. Eddy Merckx had been beaten by Luis Ocaña in the Alps and trailing in the Tour de France. But Merckx being The Cannibal, he used the stage that left the Alps to Marseille to attack. He went clear from the start as the race began with a descent, ambushing Ocaña. Merckx, accompanied by others, rode away and averaged 50km/h for the 220km stage. The clip is worth watching for the music.
Only this meant they arrived so early for the finish in Marseille that mayor Gaston Deferre was not there to see it as he was tucking into his lunch. Deferre was furious and the city was his fiefdom, he only left office in a coffin. He was so angry he swore the race would never return to his city. Deferre died in 1986 and the race came back in 1989.
In 2007 Stage 10 used a similar finish, climbing the Gineste to drop into Marseille and a breakaway won with Cédric Vasseur winning. If you want omens it was a victory for Quickstep and both Jens Voigt and Michael Albasini were in the break and they’re both racing in this year’s tour with Radioshack-Leopard and Orica-Greenedge respectively.