A long stage with plenty of climbing and an exciting finish with the “Mur de Fayence” as the conclusion.
Stage 5 Wrap: the classic formula of an early breakaway with slim chances followed by a sprint finish. The sprints so far have been varied and this time it was André Greipel who got the timing right and launched his powerful sprint to by a clear margin. Julian Alaphilippe enjoyed an untroubled day in yellow.
The Route: East, no need to go south to find Nice now. The focus might be on the last two kilometres of the stage but this is the longest stage in the race and has some big climbing on the way to help ensure the riders are cursing by the time they get to Tourettes and the start of the final climb
The race reaches Fayence via the Col de Bourigaille’s west flank, 5.5km at 6.1% and then a twisting descent. They then climb through the finish line, 1.3km at 9.8% but much steeper in places and then head out for a loop via the Col de Bourigaille, this time the southern approach with 8.2km at 5.9% which if it isn’t that hard is enough to drain the energy and force a selection and the descent will test the nerves.
The Finish: there are two parts to the climb, the flat approach and the uphill section. The approach is so important because everyone needs to be at the front but there’s only space for 20 riders in the right place. This means a frenetic effort with team mates trying to pace n’place their leaders all while others are doing the same.
As for uphill, the graphic above doesn’t do the final climb justice. Yes it’s short and yes it’s steep but it’s the irregularity that’s the hard part. It’s 1.2km at 10% but hits 22% along the way. It starts with a sharp turn to line out the riders. You need to hit the steep sections hard and then accelerate on the flatter parts. Although known as le mur, or “the wall”, a staircase is a more apt description with steep flights interrupted by short landings. The graident eases by the hairpin bends before the finish line but by then the damage is done and the tight corners line out the riders.
The Contenders: the finish has the air of the Flèche Wallonne and the Mur de Huy thanks to its steep slopes. It’s a more irregular than the Belgium climb but the likes of Julian Alaphilippe and Dan Martin have shone in the Flèche Wallonne and are well suited to the climb. Ideally Quick Step will be all in for Alaphilippe because time bonuses are at stake but Martin can always try to cover rivals to stop them from taking more time. They’ve also got David de la Cruz and Philippe Gilbert too.
Alberto Contador should remember Fayence, he cracked here and lost Paris-Nice, slipping to fourth place overall. The climb isn’t ideal for him but he should be close, the same story for Richie Porte who should be in the mix but tomorrow’s climb to the top of the Col de la Couillole seems better. Sergio Henao has won tough uphill finishes like this before but remains in infrequent winner. Diego Ulissi can be good for a finish and his 23rd place in the time trial was a decent ride for him, especially as today’s finish levels out before the line so he can use his sharp sprint if he’s still there.
Orica-Scott have some good options with Simon Gerrans, Michael Albasini and Simon Yates all in with a chance. Their ex-rider Michael Matthews might have an even better chance, Team Sunweb’s new signing was climbing up Mont Brouilly so well until that crash that the finish here is within his range but twice up the Bourigaille might be the hard point even if that’s not a fierce climb.
|Dan Martin, Sergio Henao, Michael Matthews
|Ulissi, Contador, Yates, Gallopin, Jésus Herrada, Porte, Gilbert
Weather: 20°C and sunny.
TV: they’re forecast to reach the top of the Bourigale at 3.30pm CET the first time, 4.10pm the second time and the finish is forecast for 4.30pm. You should find it on the same channel as you watch the Tour de France. It’s on Eurosport and you can rely on Cyclingfans and steephill.tv for links to feeds and streams.