Look closely at the image above and Richie Porte’s marking Michał Kwiatkowski. With just one second separating Michał Kwiatkowski and Richie Porte this will be a hard day for Team Sky and Etixx-Quickstep because as close as the gap between the two is, there are 20 riders within 90 seconds on GC. Can they control the race?
It’ll be hard as today is a a mini-world championships, a stage that many in the peloton have been looking forward to all week, including a significant proportion of the bunch who live near Nice and Monaco and use these roads for training and know the descents.
Stage 5 Wrap: the day’s breakaway had some heavier hitters going clear over the first climb but it wasn’t enough and Thomas de Gendt was the last to be caught, in sight of the finish line. We got another bunch sprint but only after a harder stage with a much higher average speed. The sprint started with Bryan Coquard taking a flyer and Davide Cimolai latching on to his wheel. Coquard is sometimes called Le Coq (the cockerel) because it’s easy to abbreviate Coquard but here he was bobbing like a hurried chicken as he dashed to the line until a solid Cimolai powered past.
The Course: a scenic ride in its own right although for a race it’s going to be hard work. The start through Tourettes will have plenty of riders swearing as breakaways try to go clear. The profile exaggerates the early climbing before the Col de Vence, the first proper ascension of the day with 10km of 6%. The race drops to the Var valley before the steady and scenic climb from La Roquette over to Levens and then the Côte de Chateauneuf, 5.5km at 5% but with a rude start and steeper slopes before a tricky descent. It’s from here that things get complicated, the roads twist and turn and there’s no time for a breather, the descents are arguably more strategic than the climbs.
The Col de Saint-Roch via the Col de Savel is a hard climb with steep sections a rough road, it gets very selective here and anyone off the back will find the normally scenic descent to Lucéram dangerous. A short breather and then it’s the climb to Peille, 5.5km at 7% but with steep ramps on the way. Then a scenic drop into Nice.
The Finish: the race descends the Col d’Eze to arrive in Nice. It’s not a technical descent but there are some sweeping bends on the way down before the flat sprint in Nice.
The Scenario: it’s easy to see the race as a battle between Michał Kwiatkowski and Richie Porte but many high on GC will try their chance and hope that two teams are busy watching each other.
The terrain suits an early break but the later part of the stage is likely to see fireworks. If we get some GC outsiders going away early then Etixx and Sky will be using up riders to contain the race early on which means Kwiatkowski and Porte are exposed later on. Porte doesn’t have to take the jersey today as he’ll be confident of success on the Col d’Eze tomorrow.
It’s advantage Team Sky because several riders are based nearby. Richie Porte lives in nearby Monaco, Geraint Thomas has been visiting a lot and Nicolas Roche even grew up in the area although outdoing Kwiatkowski downhill is a big ask. Many others in the peloton live here or know the roads from training camps and previous editions of the race. All will have to watch the descents, it’s common for a rider in the top-10 to mess up this stage, if they’re lucky they’re just on the brakes too much, if not it can be downright dangerous.
It could be a dynamic race if – let’s stress the conditional – enough riders make it happen with a lot of moves going clear. The decisive point is the climb to Peille, a steep affair and riders won’t have many team mates left at the top to chase making for a hard 26km drop into Nice.
The Contenders: the default picks are Michał Kwiatkowski and Geraint Thomas on the deduction that should things get selective both are at ease on the short climbs and have a searing sprint for the finish. Tony Gallopin would be a similar pick, he is fast in the finish if he can get over the climbs.
Many others have picked this stage and will either look to get away to build up an advantage or try to hang on by their fingernails. Of the breakaway crowd, look to Thomas Voeckler, Bob Jungels, Sylvain Chavanel, Artur Vichot and “locals” Rein Taaramäe and Philippe Gilbert. For those hoping to hang on watch Michael Matthews who has been targeting this stage, plus Eduardo Sepúlveda and J-J Rojas. As this is a selective stage it’s open to many more quality names. As it’s raining Simon Špilak gets a mention, he’s often triumphed in grim conditions.
|Michał Kwiatkowski, Geraint Thomas|
|Tony Gallopin, Michael Matthews|
|Gilbert, Chavanel, Taaramäe, Špilak, Bardet, Dumoulin|
Many more riders can win today and those on three chainrings would, in betting terms, still have long odds.
Weather: after a week of sunshine most days it’s going to be raining with temperatures during much of the stage around 10°C. The wind will be blowing from the east and it can often gust across the top of the climbs.
TV: note the later timing, the live coverage is from 3.00pm Euro time with the finish expected for 4.40pm. Tune in early to see what’s going.