Tour de France Stage 5 Preview

What a relief, in more than one sense of the word. Today’s stage features plenty of sharp climbs and narrowroads and should make for a lively finish to watch and a hectic day inside the bunch.

Stage 4 Review: a heroic event marked by feats of stamina and endurance. Not quite the stage but the efforts of TV commentators to find something to talk about. We had a breakaway with two Cofidis riders, presumably under orders to show themselves after finishing last in Monday’s team time trial (hampered in part by four of their riders crashing in the approach to the previous day’s sprint). One team absent from the move was Fortuneo-Samsic, presumably saving themselves for today. Still there was a touch of suspense in the finish with the breakaway having just enough time to raise hopes they’d make it but the long finishing straight and the headwind extinguished their chances. A big crash with 5km to go brought down plenty but among the GC candidates only Ilnur Zakarin lost time; Ag2r La Mondiale’s Axel Domont had to quit the race, a blow for the team. The sprint was nervous with riders cagey about launching too early. André Greipel seemed to be surging past Fernando Gaviria but the Colombia retook the lead just in time to take the win, two out of two when he’s been in sight of the finish line.

The Route: 204km and a gentle start along the coast past Concarneau and then the race heads inland and starts a series of climbs. There are four categorised climbs but they’re only selected highlights, the course is constantly up and down with many sharp hills, tight bends and narrow roads.

The race heads to the Montagnes Noires, the black mountains. It’s not high altitude but expect steep roads and the ridges are lined with wind turbines although today the forecast is for a still day. The Côte de la Roche du Feu (“Rock Fire Ridge”, when Vikings invaded locals would light a fire as a warning beacon) is the first third category climb and 2km at 6.8% with a steep middle section through the village, the kind where you can tell the slope of the road from the way the houses and garden fences sit into the hill.

The Menez Quelerc’h is 3km at 6.3% with a portion at 10%. It’s on a small road and has a narrow pinch-point early via a railway bridge but otherwise is long ramp up to the top.

The Montagne de Locronan is no snowy peak but still 2.2km at 6% but there’s much more to it than that. They climb up into the village, it flattens off but there are pavé and a very narrow road past the church before riding out of town, slightly downhill and then it kicks up for 900m at 8% to the top of the climb.

The next climb is to the bonus point and what the French call a raidard, a steep little climb. It’s 700m at 9% and starts out of a sharp climb meaning positioning matters a lot on the approach. Only the bonus point isn’t at the top of the climb, the road soon rises up again, turns and then rises more. After a brief descent on a main road the route flights right on a very tight bend and takes some more narrow roads over an unmarked climb and then heads for Quimper, today’s finish.

The Finish: the final kilometre is narrow and uphill, it rides from woodland into an ordinary residential road for 700m at 7% before levelling out, there’s a left hand bend and soon after the road rises up again this time at a more gentle 3%. It’s all on a wide road.

The Contenders: today’s stage has an air of Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Julian Alaphilippe (Quick Step) is an obvious pick for the stage win and the yellow jersey is within reach too. He’s a sharp finisher but prone to the odd mistake because he’s sometimes too keen to win, too quick to use up energy. Team mate Philippe Gilbert can play his part too but he’s not got the explosive finish that was his lethal weapon.

Can Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) hang on? The Paris-Roubaix winning version may find this too hilly but the Tour de Suisse Sagan may have this just within reach, it’s up to the others and their teams to eject him otherwise if he’s in contention once they round the last left-hand bend he’s a likely winner.

Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) is arguably a better climber than Sagan and sitting ninth overall, what ever plans the team have for Tom Dumoulin surely they can release Matthews from team duties today and tomorrow. In case of a sprint from a reduced peloton the likes of Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) and Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana) could feature too.

What chance Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing)? He’s had a brief spell in yellow but there’s more to his repertoire than the team time trial. He’s not been far off in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and has won a mid-mountain stage of the Tour de France already. It’s just at the risk of falling between two stools, if he’s in the finish then either the likes of Alaphilippe are fresher or Sagan is more powerful.

If things get very attritional what about Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)? He’s a safer pick to finish in the top-10 today. The same for Geraint Thomas (Team Sky).

Can the breakaway make it? Yes but the early move that goes clear from the start risks being swamped by a later move. But who to pick for a move with 25km to go? So many teams have strict, defined ambitions for this Tour and therefore won’t be firing riders up the road at random meaning fewer names to chose from. Still Arthur Vichot (Groupama-FDJ), Julien Simon (Cofidis), Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) and Michael Valgren (Astana) fit the bill.

Julian Alaphilippe, Peter Sagan, Michael Matthews
Gilbert, Valverde, Colbrelli, Thomas, MCN, GVA, EBH

Weather: warm and sunny, not as hot as recently with just 28°C at the finish and cooler inland at times.

TV: live from the start at 12.20pm CEST with the finish forecast for 5.20pm CEST. The race should reach the first of the day’s categorised climbs around 3.10pm CEST and the third category climb of la Roche du Feu at 4.00pm CEST.

55 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 5 Preview”

  1. I think GVA (new contracts, and keeping TJvG out of yellow forever, are strong motivators) or Valverde (who can’t help himself if he is feeling good).

  2. I’ll pick Matthews for toady’s stage. He was 7th on stage 1 and was looking super strong in the TTT, and his past results in races like Milan-San Remo and Amstel Gold show he can finish fast after long days with lots of hills.

  3. Probably not a typo, even though sprints and TTT are true stages of a Tour, there is a definite feel of the first proper day at school today after a few days of familiarisation with the new campus.

    Pinch points, narrow roads, steep climbs. Nervous bunch, crashes, GC riders fighting for position, surely today we will see one of the leaders in trouble at some point and mounting a desperate chase, we can only hope.

    Game on.

    • You never know with him, bur before the start of the Tour, he said he wouldnt be attacking before stage 10, in order to try and save some energy, Unlike the way he usually rides, where he spends a lot of energy by attacking evey day…

  4. Fingers crossed for Lawson Craddock. If it’s high pace today he may not make the time cut. Bernal could be in the mix, has a good sprint. Can’t see past Sagz myself, he should be able to make it over the lumps.

    • I think there will be collaboration to eject Sagan before the finish, the better climbers will want rid of him! Unfortunately they’ll pop themselves and I think a ‘smaller name’ will take the stage.

  5. Another stage, another crash. The injuries are mounting for AG2R which will not help Romain Bardet’s chances in the later stages of the race.

    Very difficult to pick a winner too many variables. Julian Alaphilippe seems the most obvious but could be a complete left field rider too. What might be interesting is if the bunch splits, some GC riders could loose lumps of time. This is going to make for a very nervous day, which makes crashes more likely. If there is a crash or mechanical the lumpy nature of the course is going to make it much more difficult to chase back.

  6. Well, the Roubaix winning version of Sagan almost won Amstel a week later, but I get your point that this is hillier than that, although I don’t think it’s in the category of Liège. I’d expect between 15 and 45 riders getting the same time as the winner – surely, many teams want this to be only about the last km. I only really see QS of the top teams that will attack before that, but it’s no given thing either. It will be especially nice to see Alaphilippe and Sagan head to head, now that we didn’t get to see them duke it out on the climb to Longwy last year.

    *”It’s 700m at 9% and starts out of a sharp climb” I take it you meant to write sharp corner.

  7. I find the dynamics of these TdF ‘classic’ races are massively disrupted by the presence of GC riders.

    Where they are normally passengers, just getting race time and maximising a training effect in the Spring, with their guard of honour shepherding them to the final breakaways are closed down much more effectively.

    I expect crashes will determine the break/winner today as from all accounts the roads have plenty of pinch points. GC riders will not want gaps forming which they can’t control and so teams will constantly be jostling for space on these narrow roads.

    I’m interested to see how it unfolds. The 2014 Roubaix stage was a mess. This was in large part due to the rain/cobbles mixture, and effectively galvanised Nibali’s stranglehold on the race. Lars Boom won that day.

    Shame Tiesj Benoot crashed yesterday. I think he was banged up because he finished last. So his chances are ruined.

    • I dont think this stage will be as selective as some of the previews are suggesting for the reasons above. The reasons gaps stick in the spring is because a few teams race to win playing chess with more than one option. Only QS will be thinking that this year and most other teams will be pulling it back together again which is hardly a bad result for QS anyway as Gaviria still has half a chance if he can arrive relatively fresh at the last km.

    • ‘The 2014 Roubaix stage was a mess…’ and was one of the most memorable stage of recent years.
      Generally, the less ‘organisation’ there is in the peloton, the better the racing is to watch.
      There’ll be plenty of stages where we’ll get to watch them trundle up mountains behind trains of team mates – let’s have a bit of chaos first and hopefully see GC contenders having to ride for themselves on terrain other than long, steep climbs.

      • It was a mess from the POV that classic riders were not really able to exploit the stage as predicted. The need to protect and shepherd GC riders to the finish meant many teams pulling hard in conditions when their riders would more happily have sat back.

        Nibali exploited the stage beautifully (but ever so sneakily). But none of the big classic riders were able to carve anything from the race; Cancellara, Boonen, Gilbert, QS and Vanmarcke were no where in contention, and so failed to meet expectations. That’s what I mean by a mess. Not altogether unenjoyable, but very hard to call.

        • that was the stage where I started to like Nibali, he seems to glide over the cobbles – despite the retirements I felt he was a worthy winner that year

      • I’ve always assume that when the Normans landed in Hastings, and they were of course descended from Vikings themselves (Norsemans) they took one look at Albion and said “it’s a lot like Brittany but bigger, let’s call it Grande Bretagne”. Thus Great Britain

        • The term ‘Great Britain’ was not given until after the Act of Union in the 17th Century.
          Whilst the name ‘Briton’ was derived from the painted / tattooed Celtic warriors, the Pretani, that faced the Roman invaders to these islands.
          Indeed, if anything, much of present Great Britain is as much, or even more, closely related to Celts and Scandinavians as it is to the Anglo-Saxons who appeared in the 5th Century from northern Europe.
          So there 🙂

          • There is evidence of Great Britain being used around 1300 to distinguish it from Lesser Britain (Brittany), both of them being called Britannia beforehand. So it may well have been the descendants of the Normans who felt the need to distinguish the two.

  8. a chance for G to nick some more seconds off Froome, and for Valverde to nick some off Landa (and yet more off Quintana) methinks….

    no chainrings for Kwiatkowski Inrng? I suppose he going to be tied to team duties (ditto Moscon/Poels)

    doesn’t Uran likes this type of terrain also? (thinking Montreal/Quebec…)

  9. No mention of Nibali? I’m surprised. The Shark of Messina would seem well-suited to this and if a stage 9 attack is expected a shark attack here will be less so, much like the one at the end of stage 2 in 2014 in fact. You will recall the Italian took yellow to Paris that year. Nibali is behind most rivals, albeit by only a few seconds to the majority, yet any attack he will make is bound to put some favourites in trouble and their teams on panic stations. A guy like Quintana can afford no more slip ups, for example.

    Either of the cat 3s at the back end of the race look like possible attack points. Nibali in the right company could land a decent blow today.

    • Good shout – I would expect him to try a speculative jump at some point – although perhaps not quite with the conviction of MSR for example.

    • On the rare occation that EBH wins big these days, INRNG will have had him on his list of contenders. Probably the most frequent one chainring pick in the history of this blog?

  10. Maybe an opportunity for Phil G with Jungles as a foil/backup. Wouldn’t count out QuickStep on any stage given their form this year. Remarkable!

  11. Ten TdF stages for Peto now. Any drama about the Green Jersey is pretty much over now. As for the Polka Dots, happy to see Toms Skujins nab it. I love his spirit.

    Wouldn’t be surprised to see Cavendish drop out of the race. He’s being outsprinted by Warren Barguil.

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