Tour de France Stage 5 Preview

A day for the sprinters, the profile shows an uphill finish but it’s a gentle rise into Privas. The trouble instead could come from the wind, watch out for le Mistral in the final 40km.

Primož inter pares: a break of six went clear and wasn’t allowed to take more than four minutes, Deceuninck-Quickstep wanted the stage win and kept chasing long after Julian Alaphilippe’s yellow jersey was safe. They’d get nothing for their efforts and this robbed us of “two races for the price of one” with the break contesting the stage and then a second contest among the GC contenders.

The one race for the price of one wasn’t great value either. As predicted, the climb from Orcières was fast. The story is in the subtleties: Primož Roglič won the stage; Jumbo-Visma set the pace on the climb; Ineos are on the receiving end; Roglič got the jump on his rivals and if he can do this for one ten second bonus on GC he’ll be confident about taking more. Guillaume Martin’s climbing well but attacked too early; Julian Alaphilippe is going very well but is maybe just off his form from last year. News? Yes, only we saw all of this in the Tour de l’Ain and the Critérium du Dauphiné before. The small novelties were Tadej Pogačar’s on the up and Adam Yates is front group material. Emanuel Buchmann lost a few seconds, Richard Carapaz more.

The Route: a blogger’s rest day, this one doesn’t need a big write-up to explain the intricacies of the parcours. It’s downhill out of the Alps and characterised by wide roads along big valleys through les Les Baronnies. The intermediate sprint should be interesting as we have a contest for the green jersey.

With 40km to go the race passes through the city of Montélimar then it’s across the Rhone valley and here the Mistral wind will get up, a crosswind into, through, and out of the city. Then a headwind as they go into the hills with 20km to go and here there’s a 3km climb at 4%, not hard but look to see if some teams try to put pressure on the heavyset sprinters. The approach to the finish is on a big road and there are some 4% sections which could tip some sprinters into the red or cause positioning problems and it’s exposed in places to the crosswinds.

The Finish: there’s a bend to the right at the flamme rouge and here’s the steepest part of the finish, 150m with a 6-7% ramp at first, then it levels off. There’s a portion downhill and then a gentle drag up the line but only slightly. It’s a subtle finish, riders need to get over the brief uphill kick without going into the red and then keep going on the downhill section so they’re not swamped from behind.

The Contenders: we’re beginning to get a hint at the hierarchy. Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) can win steeper uphill finishes than this, he’s a safe pick but the only doubts are over his climbing at the moment, if things are nervous in the crosswinds can he stay the course? Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quickstep) ought to win a stage but as mentioned before he’s sometimes error prone in the final moments of a sprint so he’s harder to back. Normally Elia Viviani (Cofidis) would come next but he’s having problems and even Cofidis management are worried. Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept) would like it to be steeper but might feel more confident here and otherwise Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) is an easy pick, powerful in the sprint, versatile for the hills and crosswinds. Alexander Kristoff (UAE Emirates) and Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT) should close.

Caleb Ewan, Sam Bennett
Peter Sagan
Nizzolo, Coquard, Kristoff

Weather: a pleasant day, sunshine and 25°C with a gentle 10km/h northerly breeze for much of the stage but once out of the mountains and into the Rhone valley the wind will get up, 25-30km/h gusts are forecast.

TV: live coverage from the start at 1.30pm CEST and the finish is forecast for 5.30pm Euro time.

61 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 5 Preview”

  1. It was fun to see such a big group at a summit finish – the benefits of a climbing stage so early in the Tour, no doubt. It will be interesting to see how big the group of favorites is after just a week. JV looks quite formidable.

    I’m hoping the world champion stripes make an appearance in the sprint tomorrow.

    • The big group was also helped by the type of climb, it wasn’t too long and at 6-7% a lot of riders could stay in the slipstream, drafting isn’t the first thing people think of when climbing but at the speeds yesterday it made a big difference.

  2. Van Aert burying himself before handing over to Kuss – we’d probably have complained it was boring if Ineos has done the same. I certainly enjoyed it.

      • The climb was too short and not steep enough for any attacks to stick, at ~ 6% there’s still a significant drafting advantage so it was always going to be a sprint. JV riding hard on the front just meant there were fewer attacks rather than lots of people flying off then slowly reeled in.

        • Also, the climb wasn’t long enough to need his services. They all need a ‘break’ of some kind.

          What was the story with Higuita and Martinez. I couldn’t see how they missed out. I did see a pink jersey, behind a yellow jersey dropping a wheel when Martin attacked.

    • It was only one day but if we see this again and again – it will be just as boring.

      Happy now?!

      I really hope it’s not the case – last year was a great race for most of it due to the lack of one team being able to control it with a genuinely uncertain outcome.

    • The non-boring part of it was the fact that the 3 Skyneos riders, who sat behind WvA all the time he pulled, totally stopped pedaling the very moment WvA had done his job, They just blew apart and were never seen after. This is by far not the team they were all the years.
      And you can’t blame it on missing Portal, if the second best team on paper can be beaten by a 2-3km of WvA pulling, there’s more going on.

  3. Not much to say about yesterday’s stage. JV continue their imperious form from the CD and suffocated the race. You just had to look at Yates, the man with most to gain unable to progress through the lead group.

    Nice to see Rolland make a cameo appearance. He looks more of a rouleur than a climber these days. He looks like he’s carrying more timber on him than in previous years.

    • RQS I’m not sure this “imperious form” is a benefit. JV are putting in effort that it seems Ineos have chosen to avoid, perhaps until the terrain suits them better. That or they just don’t want another kicking so early in the Tour!!!

  4. The climbs so far have been much better without the legions of fans getting in the way (and especially without the runners, who are only there out of their own vacuous obsession with being on TV). Probably not a popular view about the (non-running) fans, but I’ve never considered the mobs of people forming ‘tunnels’ on the road to be a positive. It’s nice to have crowds, but in the Tour de France on the big climbs there are usually far too many people, to the extent that they even hinder the racing at times (to give one example, how many times have you seen them prevent a sprint for KoM points because the guy in second has no way of getting past the rider in the lead because the fans only leave room for one rider?). It’s better to have clear roads: I wouldn’t mind the crowds if they never stepped onto the road. You see just as much if you all stand off the road.

        • I hope the Giro has the same rule that you can only walk/cycle up the mountains.
          In fact, I’d like to see that every year. Harsh on those who can’t, but unless there’s a better way to restrict numbers… maybe just having police at the bottom who allow a quota.

  5. As ever, a flat stage with one climb at the end is no more interesting than a flat stage with a sprint at the end – it’s just a sprint up a hill. If you want interesting racing you have to provide stages with multiple hills. Then, riders might attack from distance. Thankfully, this TdF has fewer of these monoclimbs (TM – Gabriele) than we’ve had in recent years. Having bonus seconds on the line can also result in more conservative racing: why not save your energy and just try to pick up 10 seconds at the end rather than putting in a longer attack?

    After yesterday’s stage I’m left wondering, as is so often the case, why do riders like Landa, Pinot, Quintana, Yates just let Roglic ride in the prime position right behind what is essentially his leadout man? Why let the dominant rider with the dominant team do exactly what they want? (Seen it happening with Froome for years.) Yates was in 9th position when they went under the flamme rouge (the others I’ve mentioned only just in front of him) – why not get yourself up to 3rd earlier? If you start that far back you have a far lesser chance of winning. Psychologically, this is handing Roglic a large fillip. At least riders like Pogacar, Lopez and Martin gave themselves a chance.

    • Not interfering with other team trains is part of the “Code of Honour” in the peloton.
      Basically, Yates, Lopez, Bernal et al. would have to have their own train, alas, they had none, and riding alongside Rogliz would be to hard on a climb like this where the speed was this high and drafting mattered.
      Also in the flatter stages, you don’t see sprinters barging in on an established leadout train. “One does not simply” gate-crash another team’s leadout.

      • If you wanted to win that stage (and others like it) you have to dispense with the code of honour. For me, cycling has too much of this kind of thing. It was stamped on it by patrons of years gone by looking to serve their own self-interests. Stop forming a queue and race.

        • Well, that’s one way to look at it. A modern, way, we could perhaps agree.
          I tend to agree with you – to a certain degree. I also find it annoying that they allow their adversairies to piggyback their main rider to the line, but I believe it will require a kind a scorched earth mentality that – in recent times – only he who must not be named possesed. A rider that is strong enough physically to win and mentally to stomach being persona non grata during much of his (or hers) time in the peloton.
          Once this person comes along, it might well be, that the snowball starts rolling in this direction, who knows?
          Or maybe riders and teams in general should more often throw caution to the wind and go for it, but this is msotly doomed in advance despite our best wishes.

        • sounds like a good way to alienate yourself from the peloton at large and maybe some teammate.

          besides that, putting in the effort to get up there then barge into position is a lot of energy to spend for a lot to maybe lose. it’s not like van aert or kuss will just let someone in like it’s a group ride.

    • It would take a large amount of effort and time in the wind to muscle your way into the train, then Sepp Kuss or whoever would push you out into the wind and you’d have to start again. All while riding on the edge of your abilities anyway. They aren’t just being polite.

      • This is so true yet something the mouthy keyboard warriors fail to understand, appreciate or acknowledge no matter how many times it is mentioned.

        It’s not worth it. The game is not worth the candle.

  6. Not sure I follow the idea that a last minute sprint is the tactic. First you’ve got to guarantee a win to take that view point and surely leaving to the line will mean that you risk losing 10 seconds because someone jumps at a better time.
    Also, if you gain 10 seconds and win, you’ve immediately got 20 seconds, otherwise you’ve got to ensure you win two sprint finishes (see point 1).
    The difficulty for sure is determining whether to expend additional energy fighting for a wheel which you might conserve for a sprint finish. The bigger issue is whether the wheel you follow is capable of following. What we see in most of these finishes is not that the order matters, but timing your effort.
    Fighting for a wheel might prove fruitless too if the rider slows and then a rider behind jumps, and you’re boxed in, have to wait for a space and make up 10-15m. Some riders will just prefer to have the room to try to make the jump themselves.

    • I’ve seen a number of Vueltas where an awful lot of stages finished with uphill sprints – usually because they were monoclimbs with bonuses at the end, like yesterday.
      You’re right it is a balance between expending the energy and getting a good position. If you’re Quintana it’s probably not worth it, but someone with a decent kick like Yates gave himself no chance yesterday because he started from so far back.

      • Also, there was little point in JV getting yellow yesterday. Roglic could’ve put more time in, but why do that when they can let DQS do the closing down. It’s clever stuff to make that calculation.

          • Well if they were perfect I’m not sure what you expect the other teams to do. There were some parallels with stage 2 of the Dauphine yesterday.
            INEOS were on the heels of the Van Aert, and when he dropped off, instead of their train firing all they could do was concede to Sep Kuss.
            At the moment JV are top dog. They know it and they control the race. If any other team try to do this they will be hung out to dry. So, at the moment, it’s a matter of watching and waiting and planning when to attack. The fight to be Alpha is about picking your battles.

          • RQS, the others could do what Martin did – attack. He got himself 3rd spot because of it. Lopez also tried. Yates might have got himself into yellow if he had.

  7. The good news spectacle-wise is roglic’s finish seems so reliably strong that beating him/JV will require other teams to move earlier in a stage at some point.

    • No signs of that happening. They’ll asphyxiate the competition before they get to launch anything. I think the tactic should be to let JV do the heavy lifting for the rest of the Tour. It’s got to be roper dope stuff – combinations from teams to soften them up and isolate them.

  8. I know it’s early, but it made me think that Roglic’s main competition may come from within – if Tom D can hang on to his coat tails and put in a stellar TT it might be interesting…

    • Agree completely, maybe it’s the fact that I’m loving being able to keep one eye on the day job and one eye on the race in this brave new working from home situation (an occasional treat in years past, now just everyday life) but I enjoyed it. We wondered if the JV train would be able to make its mark – it did. We wondered if Alaphilippe would have the legs to take a little more time – he didn’t. Those who tuned in early saw Sagan struggle in the intermediate sprint – we might have a Green jersey race this year! If the whole tour consisted of multiple climbs on every stage, people would be logging on here complaining that the peloton was just cruising up them without attacking (which of course, would be the case, especially in this *ahem* hopefully clean-ish era). I think people have an idealised version of the perfect GT stage and then come on to complain as soon as the day’s race doesn’t live up to it.

  9. Maybe it’s about psychology. When you write that this is a mountain stage, and there are 46 riders left 3 km before the finish, it looks more like a hill sprint. The most boring stage in the Tour’s history ever..

    • I completely agree. The last TdF stage that was this boring was stage 5 of the 1904 Tour, when Pothier, Maurice and Garin rode together in the dining car of the train to Bordeaux eating foie gras and drinking Merlot (the horror!) before disembarking a kilometer from the finish where they conducted a faux sprint together into the velodrome. Potheir won, but the placings turned out to be arranged on the train, given that the ever generous Potheir was willing to pick up the tab for their feast.

  10. I would love to see andre greipel get involved. I know hes getting older but on such a weak team he can’t make his best. He is the type of sprinter that needs some sort of leadout and he won’t get it with this team with GC ambitions.

  11. I plus 1 the “But hey there is live cycling on TV just enjoy it” comment!

    Seems some people have forgotten or have never watched a 200KM pan flat “transition stage” that crossed the boring French plains to end with the break away caught at exactly 20 KM to go and a sprint along a 2 lane wide boulevard. There used to be as many as 8 of these “sprint days” in a tour.

    I for one am just happy to enjoy the TDF action (whatever form it takes) and daily Inner Ring write ups.

  12. So this stage has been a bit of a joke so far then. The equivalent of marathon runners deciding they’ll just walk the first 25.5 miles, or footballers rolling it around between themselves until the 89th minute. Bit of a shambles for a televised sport really.

    • Well, Eurosport start to talk about wine pumps. Better than them taking about Croissants & straight bread I suppose.

      Then there’s the interview of a much more tanned Vaughters by GCN (both the studio setup and the presenter makes you wonder if you were actually watching Wonder Woman 1984).

      And they even do away with a break on the race. What a transitional stage. I actually love it.

    • What on earth are you talking about? How was today a shambles? These comments only highlight how little riding experience the commenter has.

      Racing for 5 straight days is super hard, they are probably cooked from the last few days. Plus not a single rider had ideal prep this year. As a fan you have to expect some less explosive stages this year.

      • Well, I was only kidding as a sign of respect, your knowledge of the teams, riders and potential strategies and winners constantly blows us all away!

        Thanks again for the previews, this is finally helping to make 2020 feel like a normal year – it is July right?

    • Oh don’t be soft. It’s a simple and well known rule that has been applied previously (eg. Froome on Alpe D’huez). Part of the reason we all love the tour is that an apparently processional stage will throw up something like this and mess with everyone’s plans. I’m looking forward to seeing JA try and win back yellow tomorrow and seeing how AY handles having yellow on a day he was planning to win the stage and jersey.

      • I wouldn’t get on a plane with Adam Yates.

        What a way to get the yellow jersey, especially off Alaphilippe, just as well the crowds are thin this year or we’d probably see some nastiness from the wayside. Yates looked as if he’d rather be anywhere than on that podium; I suppose he has to wear it tomorrow? of course, it’s not his fault, the rules have to be enforced or the race would descend into chaos ( and danger); but even so, I
        wonder what this unexpected present has done to his morale.

        Of course, he might see it as his luck changing, in which case…..

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