A transition for the sprinters as the race heads to Montpellier. The race crosses the Rhone delta, land of a thousand camp sites and a million mosquitoes.
The profile might suggest an easy day – it’s the flattest day so far in the Tour – but strong crosswinds are forecast, a force of nature to split the bunch. But don’t get your hopes up for an action-packed day where the overall contenders get tested in a stage that resembles a Belgian semi-classic. There’s a good chance the wind dies down for the stage finish.
Stage 5 Review
The early break went and of the five teams in the move, four have sponsorship worries for 2014.
- Europcar have yet to decide whether to continue and there’s no word on a potential co-sponsor
- Vacansoleil-DCM hope to continue but outside the World Tour so this could be their last Tour for some time
- Euskaltel-Euskadi are struggling too
- Sojasun say they’d like to back the team but only if there’s co-sponsor to share the financial burden.
Managers and riders need to be seen. Most visible was Thomas De Gendt and the Belgian didn’t abdicate his efforts. He seemed to be on the ultimate training ride, high tempo pacing in the break interrupted by a series of hill efforts and even a sprint winning most of the mountain points and the intermediate sprint. The move seemed doomed but the bunch left it late to chase however it opened up the throttle just in time.
A foreseen conclusion in the cité phocéenne, Marseille brought a bunch sprint. Mark Cavendish’s win was a half surprise. Half because we thought he was ill and so would not win but whenever you write him off he pops up. Edvald Boasson Hagen was second but note he could only follow Cavendish, tucked in his slipstream the difference between this and popping out and overtaking the British champion is substantial.
- Km 68.0 – Col de la Vayède 0.7 kilometre-long climb at 7% – category 4
The day starts in one charming town to finish in another. Aix and Montpellier finish high in polls in France as desirable places to live although the pro cyclist might find these areas too windy over the winter. The stage has exposed roads where Mistral wind can cause havoc.
There’s not much more insight to bring to the route. Although note as the race approaches Montpellier it uses the routes départementales rather than the main road into town. Not that these are tiny roads but they twist a bit and have a few pinch points and other obstacles.
An air of disappointment as the Tour rides into Montpellier… only to ride out again and finish on the outskirts of the city. Montpellier has a large square that’s the hub of the city, ideal to host the race but instead finishes on an anonymous road by the town’s rugby stadium. It’s a practical choice as the city doesn’t want a traffic lock-down.
10 hazard warnings but it’s not so bad as the race uses some dual carriageway roads to skirt the city and signs just show which side of the barriers the race will take. There’s a big danger at 2.5km to go when the race cuts from one road to another via a narrow access lane, a real pinch-point where the bunch could be caught out as it’s forced to funnel into the smaller space. Once passed the rest of the run in is fine, a long straight that’s an even width.
Almost a guaranteed bunch sprint. A flat route with many straight roads make it easy for the bunch to manage a breakaway. With Mark Cavendish (OPQS) back to winning ways it’s hard to bet against him. But this only means André Greipel and Peter Sagan are more hungry. The flat run suits Marcel Kittel too, the German is not sprinting for intermediate points and Argos-Shimano deliberately rode the Stage 4 TTT at cruising speed to keep their legs supple.
The prince owns everything in the kingdom, except the wind.
The wind could be a factor but the forecasts seem to vary. Aggregating their predictions suggests a decent Mistral blast but only for the first half of the stage. In other words a team looking to split the race risks wasting energy because it can all come back together in the second half.
Weather: hot as the thermometer could reach 30°C (88°F) in the shade but even warmer on the tarmac. The stage could be defined by crosswinds with the northerly Mistral set to blow but more for the start and middle-section of the day rather than the end. The closer the race gets to the finish, the more this will calm down with 20km/h breeze from the north-east, a mild tailwind and only enough to waft aromas from roadside BBQs at the riders.
TV: live coverage starts soon after 2.00pm Euro time. Like yesterday, this is a day with the action packed into the finish. Tune in around 4.30pm to watch the sprint tension build.
History: Montpellier has been a regular staging point for the race but stands out as the first African stage win of the Tour when Robbie Hunter won the bunch sprint.
— Patrick Chassé (@PatrickChasse) July 3, 2013
The Tour has a mobile X-ray unit at the finish. Nobody wants to use it but this is a very welcome addition that allows an immediate diagnosis of injuries. In the past a rider would be driven by their team to a local hospital and queue for an X-Ray and then drive to the team hotel. Even if there was nothing broken it meant lost recovery time for a battered rider and the accompanying soigneur or team doctor spent an hour or more as glorified chauffeur instead of attending to the whole team.