The race goes on for now and here’s a stage with hillier terrain for a new cast of characters.
Stage 5 Review: a long day and a breakaway of four riders, each capable of turning a big gear, in Jan Tratnik, Ryan Mullen, Alexis Gougeard and Anthony Turgis. They made the bunch work all day to the point where the sprinters behind in the bunch were too tired to sprint effectively. The quartet fractured and with 7km to go Tratnik dropped Gougeard to go solo and it looked like he could hold off the bunch right until the final metres. Suddenly Niccolò Bonifazio seemed to sense that if he didn’t do something the there’d be no chance and the Italian popped out of the bunch and took the stage ahead of Ivan Garcia Cortina and Peter Sagan. It’s a big win for the second tier Total Direct Energie team, their last in the World Tour since Jérôme Cousin in the 2018 Paris-Nice. Bonifazio dedicated the win to his compatriots back in Italy, a nice touch but spare a thought for him as he’s in great shape, lives local to the Cipressa and Poggio – only there’s no Milan-Sanremo. EF Pro Cycling had a tough day, losing three riders at Tejay van Garderen left the race to fly home, Michael Woods crashed and breaking his leg and Lawson Craddock getting a fever… which was checked and he was given the all clear to leave.
The Route: 160km into the Luberon and a hilly day for a breakaway. It’s a short ride from Sorgues to the finish in Apt but the route today zigs and zags before reaching Apt to head out for a hilly loop of 47km. None of the day’s climbs are too hard, typically 5% but often on rough old roads. The last climb to Auribeau through the lavender fields is listed as 4km 5.7% but it’s got 3km nudging 7% to the top and this makes it selective.
The Finish: a twisty finish but through the intermediate sprint crossed earlier as they climb – 1km at 8% – past apartment blocks in the residential area above Apt. Then it descends back to town on a wide road with few obstacles before a drag back up to the line in the centre of town.
The Contenders: it’s Friday 13 and this is traditionally a lucky day in France so by extension a good day for a breakaway. Tomorrow’s the obvious GC stage. Plenty of riders are now minutes down on GC so take your pick from a very motivated field as tomorrow might work for a breakaway but it’s not so obvious.
Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) is an obvious pick but his time trial performance says the form is there and the course suits, several climbs for him to grind down rivals and if all else fails there’s the mountains jersey to collect, he won it last year.
Among the others Benoît Cosnefroy (Ag2r La Mondiale) has been impressive so far this season but this is a bigger stage while the team has more options like Nans Peters and Pierre Latour… but they often go in the breakaway but rarely convert it into a win. The same for Xandro Meurisse (Circus-Wanty). Julian Alaphilippe and several other Deceuninck-Quickstep riders are bound to try again. Some picks might be saving themselves to help a team mate tomorrow like Alberto Bettiol at EF Pro Cycling, or they might prefer tomorrow’s finish outright like Richie Porte or Romain Bardet.
There’s always the chance it comes back for a bunch sprint and Ivan Garcia Cortina (Bahrain-McLaren) looks an obvious pick ahead of Peter Sagan.
|Thomas De Gendt, Julian Alaphilippe|
|Cosnefroy, Meurisse, Latour, Valgren, Asgreen, Jungels, IGC, Sagan|
Weather: sunshine and clouds, a top temperature of 17°C. It’s windy again with a 20km/h breeze from the NW which crucially could gust to 45km/h, enough to split things if the wind is sustained.
TV: the finish is forecast for 4.25pm CET time. It should be available on the same channel you watch the Tour de France and/or Eurosport.