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.
- 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.
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.
|André Greipel, Peter Sagan, Arnaud Démare, Alexander Kristoff, Bryan Coquard|
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.