Tour de France Stage 5 Preview

The first mountain stage is here and the racing is going to change. There should be a struggle to get in a breakaway at the start and battle for the stage win at the end as the race heads to the volcanic landscapes of the Cantal.

Stage 4 Wrap: a photofinish was needed to separate Marcel Kittel and Bryan Coquard. Normally there’s a gulf between the two, one is on a big budget team with a powerful lead out train; the other rides for a team that relies on invites and a sprint train that’s more of a regional stopping service. Still this was the finish to suit Coquard and he made the most of it. He confessed afterwards he’d seen Kittel sprinting the previous day and didn’t rate him and opted to follow Sagan in the sprint only to find Kittel back on top of his game and winning the stage.

Raymond Poulidor

The Route: barely a metre of flat. The road rises and falls again and again even before the categorised climb in St. Leonard, home to Raymond Poulidor and then more climbing as the route gets near 1,000m above sea level near the 90km point. It’s after 160km and Salers that the race tackles the first mountain pass, the Col de Neronne. It’s an easy climb as the road climbs up a valley, expect side shots from the helicopter as it hovers beside the road as the race enters the volcanic landscape.


The Pas de Peyrol is the big climb, it starts steady then rears up and the final 2.5km are consistently between 11-13%, a big change of rhythm. There’s a flat section across the top that the profile doesn’t show and then a long descent with one or two dangers – Alexandr Vinokourov broke his leg in 2011 here – but otherwise fast.

The Col du Perthus is listed as 4.4km at 7.9% which would be hard if it was like this. Instead it’s much steeper for most of the way. The profile says it starts with 7% but the 10-12% slopes arrive immediately and it stays this way for the next two kilometres with only a brief flat section in between before rising up all the way to the top. It’s harder than expected and the place where teams can ratchet up the pace to eliminate or test rivals who’ve survived the Pas de Peyrol. The descent is in two parts, the first part is easy and gentle, then there’s a bump uphill and then the second part is steeper and more dangerous part with some sharp turns, the kind where it’s easy to overcook things.

The Finish: the Col de Font de Cère begins on the big Route Nationale and then with 6km to go they turn onto a small road which climbs to the KoM point among the chalets and ski slopes above Le Lioran on a steady road. The descent is much smaller and has some bumps and tight bends on the way down before they drop back into the ski resort and pick up the main road which gradually bends to the finish. The last 600m rise at 6-7%.

The Scenario: there should be be a fight to get in the breakaway for a change and the process of selection means that once it goes it’s bound to contain some heavy hitters who could stay away all day, as long as they’re down on GC already. The main GC teams will not let any rivals go clear, there’s little chance that, say, Richie Porte is allowed any room to go in the early break. It’ll be a hard day for Alberto Contador, if he lost seconds in Cherbourg he could lose minutes here.

Julian Alaphilippe

The Contenders: want to win the stage and wear the yellow jersey? It’s up to several teams to eliminate Peter Sagan from the front group today on the climbs, if he’s not ditched on the Pas de Peyrol then the Col du Perthus can be used. The Slovak’s chances of a win today are low given the climbing but it’s up to his rivals to make the race hard enough to get rid of him otherwise if he makes the front group over the penultimate climb then he’ll be hard to beat.

First among the contenders is Julian Alaphilippe. He’s almost a local, the stage is in his local Auvergne region, albeit in the opposite corner to his home. He can climb well as we’ve seen in races from the Critérium du Dauphiné to the Ardennes classics and he can match Peter Sagan for power in the uphill sprints. Etixx-Quickstep have the team to eject Sagan too, especially if Dan Martin gets to work although he’s a contender for the stage win too. The yellow jersey awaits.

Alejandro Valverde is a good pick and if anyone can beat Alaphilippe it’s Valverde as the Spaniard has regularly got the better in the Ardennes but he’s not the prime pick today because the finish isn’t so steep. Also do Movistar want him to win? Yes but it would mean having the yellow jersey which is nice but a burden given their superior ambitions. Jesus Herrada is another option for a sprint finish from a reduced group and Ion Izaguirre is in fine shape too, Movistar can afford to let one rider slip away and still protect Nairo Quintana.

Orica-BikeExchange have three options in Adam Yates, Simon Gerrans and Michael Matthews but in order to increase their odds they may want to use up riders in order to thin the group, for example to get Gerrans working to ensure Sagan is dropped which could put Matthews in trouble too, it won’t be easy to control.

Wilco Kelderman, Rui Costa, Bauke Mollema are other punchy riders who don’t have much chance in sprint against the names cited above but could barge clear on the final climb and find the others hesitate as they’re not GC threats so allowing them to take a surprise win. Tony Gallopin has a shot at the win, he can climb well and sprints fast but as mentioned already this week can get nervous in the finish. Jarlinson Pantano found winning ways in the Tour de Suisse and sprints well, this suits him.

The local pick is Romain Bardet who grew up in Brioude, just a short spin away. He sprints faster than many think but wins are rare and he won’t get much room. He could try to force matters on the familiar descents but the Route Nationale section to Le Lioran won’t suit a lone rider who’s taken 20-30 seconds on the previous descent.

For breakaway picks it’s a lottery. Rafał Majka is 17 minutes down but does he have the freedom to do what he wants or is he helping Sagan? Thomas Voeckler is well down on GC too but his exploits over these roads in 2011 represent a high point that, aged 37, he’s struggling to replicate. The winner that day ahead of Voeckler was L-L Sanchez and an outsider today. Otherwise Stephen Cummings, Thomas de Gendt and Jan Barta are among the obvious escape artists who pose no threat to the GC riders with Cummings having good jump to win.

Julian Alaphilippe, Alejandro Valverde
Dan Martin
Pantano, Yates, Gerrans, L-L Sanchez, Cummings, Kelderman

Weather: sunshine and warm with a top temperature of 26°C along the way, cooler at altitude. A light tailwind of 10km/h will help push riders along.

TV: the race reaches Salers at 3.45pm Euro time and a good point to tune in for the climbs to come. The finish is forecast for 5.15pm Euro time.

53 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 5 Preview”

        • I haven’t listened to the podcast, but what made the atmosphere foul? The fact that Matthews and Gerrans (and to an extent Albasini and Yates) are all going for the same goals and not working together as a team? That one thinks they’re better than the other?

          • I accept that Gerrans is a double monument winner and a couple of years ago was on fire but on form this year Matthews and Albasini should be getting the nod. There is a similar scenario at BMC where van Avarmaet and Gilbert don’t appear to get on and tend to go for the same goals. At least BMC have the balls to make a decision and pick one over the other.

        • Just watched the latest Backstage Pass – almost nothing from after the stage, just a very quick wrap from Matt White. Not the usual Aussie banter and positive spin, doesn’t seem as happy a place this tour.

      • I can never understand why the boss in these situations doesn’t force them to act like grown ups and be professional.
        That should have been happening from the start of the season with the promise that if it didn’t happen one of you would be at the Tour of Austria.

      • Looked like Gerrans had the team behind him yesterday, but finish suited Matthews better. Looks like Matthews are leaving the team, and therefor don´t get any support. Could be wrong, but I´m supprised if the whole team working for him.

      • In both Amstel and Stage 2, there is a point in the last hundred metres or so where you can see both Matthews and Gerrans sprinting for the win. Its unusual to say the least.

  1. Bauke Mollema not a threat you think? Maybe not for the podium but a consistent top 10 finisher.
    I doubt he will be allowed to move clear.. other top 10 candidates won’t approve? Btw. I’m dutch 😉
    Anyway aa very interesting stage! Having a hard time putting together my tour-team for the day 😉 (GC, hilly guys, escape artists..?) Thanks for your previews!!

  2. I can see Sagan getting dropped, but who’s gonna make sure it happens?

    There’s no way Martin is going to go to the front for Alaphilippe. He’s here for the GC. So that leaves them with Vakoc and Martin to make it happen?

    Movistar will let Valverde sprint, but will they ride tempo on the front to drop Sagan themselves? Very unlikely, they’re not known to do much working on the front unless necessary and stage doesn’t suit Quintana.

    Sky likes to take control, but will they really already at this point considering the Tour has an extreme amount of real climbing stages this year?

    I think the only way Sagan is getting dropped is if we get a bunch of attacks from riders like Rui Costa, Bardet, Barguil, Kelderman. But if that’s going to happen, somebody has to do the working to catch the break and who will that be?

    If tempo is super high this is a difficult stage for Sagan, but I just don’t see it happening.

    • I think Ettix will pull for the win for Alaphillipe or Martin, and maybe Lotto too for Gallopin. Not to mention Orica going for stages too. I’d be surprised if they allow Sagan to be around for the finish.

  3. Let’s not forget, Alaphilippe won on the summit finish of the Amgen Tour of California and in a convincing fashion too on his way to winning the overall general classification. Subsequent to California, he was taking time bonuses in the sprint finishes at the Criterium du Dauphine besting the likes of Nacer Bouhanni. If it’s a select group coming to the line, you can bet Alaphilippe will have a say in how the finish plays out.

    The French are in need of their “Next Great Hope” and Alaphilippe fits the bill perfectly.

    • I agree that Alaphilippe fits the bill for the next French hope, that said, ATOC is a week stage race, but he has lots of good results to go along with it.
      What do the “French” think of him on a Belgian team? Are any of the French teams looking to sign him when his contract is up?

  4. Pendant mode – apologizes. “can be used” twice at the beginning of the ‘Contenders’ section.

    I think INRNG has understated how strength sapping the roads of the Cantal can be, even to Professionals. As well as the never ending changes in elevation – even away from the major climbs, the road surfaces tend to inhibit easy rolling. It is going to be a very tough and interesting day.

  5. There’s a logical scenario where the tempo would be super high, if teams with a serious GC contender smell Contador’s blood. If he’s still hurting then why wait for the weekend, eliminate him now. Tomorrow looks relatively easy on paper so no need to save energy.

  6. This stage might prove to have a more exciting opening hour than final. Tempo will be crazy at the drop of the flag. EQS autocrat Lefevre said they’re still hunting the yellow Jersey and I suppose this morning’s team meeting at Orica will be fiery as well so a break won’t be getting much leeway I think. Cummings better has an extra plate of pasta if he wants to bring this one home.

  7. Tom Dumoulin says he is in good shape, as light or even lighter then in the Vuelta last year. He likes to get yellow. Very few riders have won stages and the leader yersey in tour, giro and vuelta in one year.

  8. The local, Bardet will almost certainly try something here and play on the fact that other GC contenders will not have done their research. I think many will be surprised by the Col du Perthus and it will catch a few out. It certainly did for me a few years ago where the gradient is consistently steeper than anything else found in the area.

    • I agree. The climb from the Dordogne starts 50km before the Pas de Peyrol which just gets steeper and steeper, then the very technical descent and then back up and over a tough Col de Perthus, and if the sun comes out it will be hot. It was 35 degs when we were there a couple of weeks ago.

  9. This stage seems to be being talked up as Alaphilippe’s coronation in yellow – and it may prove to be . But Valverde will want a stage win regardless of team orders/duties and brave would be the team that passed up the chance for one due to “greater ambitions”. I foresee nervous riding by the GC guys waiting to see if any of them actually want to throw a punch. And expect the result will be stalemate. For now.

    • Not to mention that the last 2km of the climb is a pretty fierce 12% ave with kicks to 15%. If the sun is out it is exposed and hot and there are still a couple of decent, technical climbs to be done after it. And before it a good descent and climb out of the beautiful gorge de la Dordogne.

    • Agree, auvergne and massife cetral is by far my favorite place for a bike vacation in france – cantal is the premium an Puy Mary the most beutifull pass in france. st Flur is a great place to stay (been there a few times)

  10. Is Mollema that punchy? He seems rather like a diesel in the high mountains, always at the back. And he doesn´t have any top results from det Adrennes?

    • It’s a weird one, because you’re right, he’s more of a diesel in the high mountains but he does have a genuinely good, sprinty, punchy finish. Green jersey in the Vuelta 2011, was close here in stage 2 as well (got boxed in by GvA). Does always seemingly flatter to deceive, which indeed is why his LBL and AGR results often disappoint.

  11. This could be electric today, often far more exciting and busy than the so called and much anticipated “mountain stages”. Nothing as good as a good rolling parcours to really wind things up. lets hope it happens.

  12. would love to see either Valverde or Nibali sneak away and take yellow today, to give us the prospect of complicated team politics – ie don’t attack the yellow jersey within your own team etc etc….

  13. Surprised to see Fuglsang lose so much time so early – he’s over 11mins down. Is this prep for a stage win attempt, or just saving energy before duties in the Pyrenees?

    • As noted by RIchard & Lionel (The Cycling Podcast), seems very unfair that Poulidor has been made to wear a yellow shirt for his podium duties when he never got one as a racer.

      GVA looking good at 12 minutes up with DeGent and Grivko – and the Maillot Jaune Virtuel. Or whatever that is in French.

      • GVA did indeed look very good.
        And he only gave up maybe 40 seconds over the last 10km to the chasing peleton.
        Good to see former denigrated perennial 2nd place finisher have such success the past couple years.

  14. The healthy GC contenders will place together, with the chance Froome grabs a couple or so seconds but for the unhealthy this could be revealing. Today We may get an idea of how Contador is doing.

    • It s is.. (Been there twice). Another plus is the remoteness and lack of trafic. Stay away from Mont Dore up noth thoug… The trafic from mont dore to clermont-ferraint is really terible for cyclists.

  15. I can’t decide what my favourite story is so far this tour:
    The resurgence of Cav with his two early stage wins and his first time in yellow, or
    The resurgence of Sagan, first win in several years at tour, and his first time in yellow, or
    GVA proving (again) he can win races, not just get onto podiums, and his first time in yellow…,
    Or Marcel Kittel, winning again on the big stage after a 2015 to forget…

    And we are only 5 days into this tour.
    What a great time of year it is to be a cycling fan!

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