Stage 6 Preview

Thursday, 10 July 2014

The aftermath of Stage 5. Today should see a sprint finish as well as giving riders a chance to stretch their legs after yesterday’s battering.

As well as the race we’ll get a history lesson plus a presidential visit.

Stage 5 Wrap
Click here for yesterday’s special stage wrap.

The Route

  • Km 107.5 – Côte de Coucy-le-Château-Auffrique, 0.9 kilometre-long climb at 6.2% – category 4
  • Km 157.0 – Côte de Roucy, 1.5 kilometre-long climb at 6.2% – category 4

After the start in Arras, a town famous for its square we have a flat stage and another commemoration of the war with the race taking a similar direction to the front line of the Battle of the Somme and then into the Aisne, where there were three Battles of the Aisne between 1914-1918 and huge losses. The race will ride along the Chemin Des Dames, a ridge where battles from WW1 and Napoleonic times were fought, you can see it on the profile above. Along this part of the course the publicity caravan will not distribute its usual samples but blue cornflowers instead, symbols of French remembrance.

After royalty in Britain and Belgium French republicanism asserts itself with a visit from President Hollande expected later today. Presumably duty requires him attend for commemoration because the sporting aspect might leave him bored. There’s little on the course to challenge the riders.

The grab from Google’s Streetview shoes the Côte de Roucy, it’s the middle of nowhere. As you can see it’s terrain exposed to the slightest crosswind although the forecast doesn’t suggest much to worry about.

The Finish: fast and flat. There’s the usual run in to a large French town with seven roundabouts past drab retail outlets before race reaches Reims, the capital of champagne. But overall there are few obstacles along the way with the final roundabout at 1,200m to go leaving a big boulevard for the final kilometre.

The Scenario: a breakaway or another sprint finish? Marcel Kittel crashed yesterday and there’s nothing to say he’s injured so he and the other sprinters will be making an appointment with the finish line. We can still expect an early break and this time perhaps a few more riders will give it a go, hoping to profit from a bruised and disorientated peloton. Plus the gaps on the GC could see them given more room. A sprint still seems inevitable.

The Contenders
Marcel Kittel is the prime pick. Tuesday’s stage has suggested he’s beatable but for now this is only theoretical, it’s up to the other teams to prove it. If so then Arnaud Démare and Alexander Kristoff should be the challengers but the conditional tense applies as they both crashed yesterday. The same for André Greipel although “The Gorilla” says he’s fine. Otherwise look to two men in Green, first Bryan Coquard for his fast finishing skills and second Peter Sagan because he was one of the few to stay upright yesterday… or so he told TV after the stage but yesterday’s medical bulletin had him down as a crash victim too.

Marcel Kittel
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André Greipel, Peter Sagan, Arnaud Démare, Alexander Kristoff, Bryan Coquard
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Weather: cool and cloudy, a top temperature of 18°C and a good chance of showers throughout the stage. The Chemin des Dames would be a good place to split the bunch in a crosswind but today’s forecast suggests only a light tailwind.

TV: it’s no longer live from start to finish as coverage is will start after the first hour of racing from 1.45pm Euro time with the finish forecast around 5.30pm. Check in for any crosswind action but otherwise this should be a sprint finish with the suspense condensed late in the race.

Champagne: today’s finish is in Reims, known as “the capital of champagne” because it’s a small city near the sparkling wine production area, you’ll find the HQ of various houses, notably Taittenger. The Tour de France doesn’t do podium champagne celebrations but it’s a tradition that began in France.

In the 1950s the French Grand Prix was held in Reims and the winning driver – Fangio – got a bottle of bubbly as a prize. A tradition was born and ever since the winning driver in a grand prix has gets a bottle. Fast forward to 1967 and the Le Mans 24 hour race. Daniel Sexton Gurney stepped onto the podium for his obligatory bottle of champagne. It’s here accounts differ. One says he was so excited that he decided to spray the crowd; another suggests that the bottle was not chilled and the driver was overheated, so instead of sipping, he sprayed. Either way champagne is now associated with success and the symbolism of a victor ejaculating champagne suggests… well work it out for yourself.

Joe K. July 10, 2014 at 6:56 am

Hey INRG! Did you fix the computer?

Hopefully, today’s flat stage will give the riders a chance to recover from yesterday’s dramatic and highly entertaining stage. But surely some poor souls will take the early flyer off the front!

pedaldancer July 10, 2014 at 8:45 am

a chance to recover…?

Gentlemen,
I beg to differ here!
Typically, stages in the first week, regardless the terrain, tend to be fast and nervous, even more so this year.

I bet my money on another entertaining afternoon, that beats yesterday’s World Cup match by far in terms of excitement!

Blacky July 10, 2014 at 12:34 pm

This could be different. Gaps in the GC are already so big, that almost anyone could make a break of the day so no chasing in first hour.
I expect break from km zero and a lazy 3 hours will follow. Last 40 will see usual scenario catch-trains-Kittel.

NancyA July 10, 2014 at 7:33 am

Thanks for the great punch line, Mr. Inrng. After the shock and awe of Stage 5, it was good to laugh!

Qwerty July 10, 2014 at 9:08 am

Nice touch with the memorial. Today could feel ordinary compared to yesterday.

Anonymous July 10, 2014 at 9:55 am

We’re ONLY 5 days in and because of Bastille Day, the first rest day isn’t until Tuesday 15th. That’s 10 days racing without a break after some extreme racing. Tired legs. I expect a lot more riders to be packing it in over the next few days.

Bicieri July 10, 2014 at 9:58 am

As you mentoined this stage has another commemoration of WW1, mainly the French connection. It’s no coincidence this stage also includes Peronne. There one can find The Historial de la Grande Guerre, the most important French WW1 museum. Highly recommended.

Glad your computer problem is solved. Where would we be without our daily shot of Inner Ring?

Dave T July 10, 2014 at 1:21 pm

+1, Bicieri. It’s a comprehensive museum and a very sombre place. And there’s another museum in nearby Albert, which tries to convey a little of life and death in the trenches.

For those who didn’t get enough cobbles yesterday there’s a viewing tonight (11pm, BBC4 in the UK) of “A Sunday in Hell”, Jorgen Leth’s fab doc of 1976 Paris-Roubaix.

Ollie July 10, 2014 at 10:18 am

Intrigued as to why you think Tuesday’s stage showed how Kittel looks as if he can be beaten? In my mind, he came from so far back to beat Kristoff (think it was him?) comfortably, in actual fact it shows how UNbeatable he is.

In reality the Green jersey is now a one horse race unless Sagan crashes out. He has built up such a lead that all he has to do is sit on Kittel’s wheel on big sprint stages and make sure that there isn’t a massive difference between the amount of points either of them collects. The only place we’ll see Sagan contend the springs is on the slightly hillier stages where Sagan is better over the mountains and it leaves him free to pick up as many points as possible, whilst Kittel struggles.

The Inner Ring July 10, 2014 at 10:26 am

It’s more that several riders have since said Tuesday gave them the impression they can be him. As I say above, they might have their theories but putting it into practice is another matter.

Agreed on the green jersey competition. I expected him to stitch up a lead but not this quick.

Ben July 10, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Thoughts on Kittel deliberately trying to look vulnerable on stage 4 to make sure Giant get help controlling the break on the flat stages?

John July 10, 2014 at 1:50 pm

There is not enough room for error for this psychology. I don’t think anyone can win a sprint while deliberately trying to look vulnerable; they would likely lose that stage. Stage wins are like money – they have a discount value – and a victory today is worth more than a hypothetical victory a few days later.

Dodge2000 July 10, 2014 at 10:58 am

I think we are going to have another nervous day after yesterday with no one quite sure what break to chase. Geraint Thomas has tweeted about the run in to Reims. If we get the rain the final few KMs are littered with roundabouts and it was these more than the cobbles that caused the crashes yesterday. Going to be a tense run in for the teams with sprint trains fighting in the wet and nervous GC guys trying to stay out of trouble.

This Tour has certainly started with a bang. I’m worn out already.

andy w July 10, 2014 at 12:21 pm

How 90-degree twisty, roundabout-riddled, narrowing bottlenecks full of street furniture and kerbs, was the end of stage 4 into Lille ?
I’m amazed we didn’t have multiple crashes there

Anonymous July 10, 2014 at 2:46 pm

Yeah – that was nuts. I was looking through my fingers for 10km or more, ~15km-5kms from the finish.
Any rain, or a bad spill, and people would have been all over it.
But nothing happened, so … crickets.
The organisers got a break on that one, I think. It was a prolonged and horrible stretch of road for a 200-man peloton winding up for a bunch kick.

Dodge2000 July 10, 2014 at 10:59 am

and to add. I’m going for Nibali in a sprint. The man is full of surprises!

Flashing Pedals July 10, 2014 at 11:28 am

Ideally, it’d be full of cross winds, and the GC boys have to stay attentive, near the front, and avoid losing more minutes. shattering the race that way,
Reality, with weather not playing ball,
my guess will be a break goes away, and cest la vie….

andy w July 10, 2014 at 12:18 pm

“Daniel Sexton Gurney” – I love it !
Never heard Dan referred to that way before :o)

And I like the Streetview pic shwoing how exposed the road is – a bit of sideways thinking that makes the point very well

Bergs July 10, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Thanks as always for the fab writing.

Do you know if sprinters set up with higher gearing than non sprinters?

The Inner Ring July 10, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Most riders will have a 52 or 53 chainring and an 11T sprocket. Some sprinters might try a 54T far from all.

brianthemagical July 10, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Do some of they really use 52t? I thought it was 53t for everything except where a compact is needed. could it be beacuse there’s no downhills to contend with?

Thomas July 10, 2014 at 1:55 pm

Don’t forget that Kittel hit the tarmac yesterday as well. It wasn’t a big crash, but it might have influenced his recovery.

Cycling Prizes July 10, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Looks like Kittel will extend his lead in the cyclingprizes.blogspot.com leadererboard today. He’s currently €24,350 with Sagan 2nd on €15,100. With €8,000 up for grabs, plus intermediates, mountains, etc, Kittel’s looking likely to take a prizemoney lead that will last into next week.

Abdu July 11, 2014 at 4:04 am

Great research and writing as usual.

The OGE backstage pass clip had team owner Gerry Ryan mentioning he (and the Belgian ambassador?) had laid a wreath at one of the cemetaries where many Australia WW1 dead are buried. There is a very strong connection for many Australians to those parts of France, with the Aussies fighting around Ypres and Pozieres. I once rode through that area and was surprised to see an Austalian flag still ‘flying’ inside a church near there. Good for the OGE boys to put some perspective on their racing, but even cannier for Gerry to recognise the experience might also motivate one or two of the lads.

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