Tour de France Stage 5 Preview

Out of the Alps for a sprint stage and a tonal change as the race leaves the mountains for a week.

Faire Valloire: UAE were not subtle. They started work early and even managed to split the field briefly before the Lautaret, catching out the likes of Simon Yates. Then they kept up the pace, scything down the breakaway and threshing the peloton.

By the Galibier proper race radio was reeling off the names of riders being ejected, among them maillot jaune Richard Carapaz and soon it was easier to list the riders left up front. Pogačar was out to test Jonas Vingegaard’s health.

There was an interesting inter-office moment when João Almeida beckoned Juan Ayuso to do a turn, shades of “I’m burying myself in this headwind and you’re free-riding to become our second-placed GC rider without doing a pull“. Only supply your own caption as they won’t say it aloud. Amid the demonstration of power Adam Yates was dropped.

Pogačar attacked as soon as the slope kicked up after the turning for the Galibier tunnel, 900m before the top. It was forceful, he was out of the saddle and shaking the bike below him for 20 pedal strokes. Vingegaard replied, but only 10 pedal strokes out of the saddle before he went into the brace position, seated and head tucked low. Being aero counts on the upper slopes of the Galibier when you are moving at 30km/h. Evenepoel had responded but couldn’t get across.

Vingegaard was valiant in the chase and for a long time there were only seconds in it. But once away from the most technical parts Pogačar pulled out a lead. Later Vingegaard was caught by Carlos Rodriguez and Primož Roglič and soon after Remco Evenepoel made it across.

So the stage and the yellow jersey for Pogačar but is it conclusive? Vingegaard is close in terms of form, he’s arguably exceeding some expectations but his team mates are not, he was isolated at the end.

Pogačar now leads by 45 seconds with Remco Evenepoel next and Vingegaard third. Roglic are Rodriguez already over a minute down while the rest of the GC contenders are over three minutes away.

The cards could be shuffled soon with the time trial and gravel stage. How Vingegaard can respond? He might improve as the race goes on while Pogačar’s fatigue grows, but if this happens he still has to find a way to get past the UAE team. Rodriguez is now the sole leader at Ineos and Evenepoel is a contender but would both sign today for a podium? Is that a rhetorical question? Roglič so far is only following, for a change he hasn’t got any time bonuses, but still a contender.

The Route: out of the Alps and avoiding as much of the climbing as possible, even the mountain passes on the course today are not cited. It’s down the Isère valley and past the Lacets de Montvernier and climbing options galore but it’s a deliberately flat day.

Over to Chambéry where the Decathlon-Ag2r La Mondiale team has its service course. The French teams each have a regional identity: Decathlon are savoyards from the Alps: Cofidis nordistes from the north, Arkéa-B&B Hotels from Brittany while Groupama-FDJ is more the exception, its service course is outside Paris by the CDG airport but it has a base in Besançon in Eastern France.

Then comes the unmarked Col de Couz, 13km long but just 3-4% and then it’s down to the Rhone and a course that tracks the river. The climb to Lhuis is the last obvious obstacle for the sprinters, 3km at 5% and with steeper parts but all with 35km to go, more scenic detour than anything else.

The Finish: Saint-Vulbas is a village but with a giant logistics park on the side and it’s the latter that hosts the finish meaning big roads built for trucks. It’s slightly uphill but we’re talking 1-2% tops and the finishing straight is practically 2.5km long.

The Contenders: unable to sprint last time, we’ll see if Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) gets a go today and again if he has Mathieu van der Poel as a battering ram than he’s got a good chance of winning.

Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) has the train and the speed to be in the mix but he’s not a bike length ahead of the rest. Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco) has the speed but can he get an opening? His aero position can count in a headwind.

Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty) for a second win? Why not but it’s not even clear he’s a sprinter, yes he’s fast and agile but lighter than most sprinters so he needs the right opportunity rather than a straight dragster contest like today. But he’s close to the green jersey so presumably the team, Thijssen included, are on duty.

Arnaud De Lie (Lotto-Dstny) was close. Sam Bennett (Decathlon-Ag2r) is on team turf but it doesn’t make him faster.

Pedersen, Groenewegen
De Lie, Bennett, Girmay

Weather: cloudy and 22°C. Not much wind but it’ll count in the sprint, 10-15km/h from the NNW meaning a headwind.

TV: KM0 is at 1.30pm CEST and the finish is forecast for 5.25pm CEST. Tune in for the climb to Lhuis at around 4.30pm, earlier if you want the scenery of the Rhone and the nearby hills where Mandrin – France’s version of Robin Hood – roamed.

Postcard from Saint-Vulbas
Would you like to visit Saint-Vulbas? As you can see from the postcard it has a charming priory… and the Bugey nuclear power station sits nearby. It’s not famous for much, Nacer Bouhanni won a sprint stage of the Dauphiné here in 2016 with a boxing victory salute, appropriate after his Cofidis lead out and the Katusha team came to blows during the approach. He’s retired and, married to an award winning actress and film director, taking an increasing interest in cinema. Maybe we’ll see him on the silver screen soon?

Back to Saint-Vulbas, at least known to truckers because it is home to a giant logistics park with warehouses for many companies. And talk of logistics brings us to your chance to visit because Visma-Lease A Bike has offered guests the opportunity, yours for €2,775 a go.

As the hospitality schedule sets out guests can spend two nights at the race, arriving in time for a light lunch, a ride in the countryside and then an “extensive dinner”. The next day includes a visit to the Tour start and then race-hopping with staff to points along the race. This is the interesting bit as the experience includes “helping with supplies” which can mean passing up waterbottles, usually at points early in the race when things are not critical although the Tour peloton is hardly taking in the views. It’s a clever move by the team, not all VIP experiences have to involve being waited on or hanging out with stars and the team can deploy paying guests rather than extra staff. After watching the finish and another “extensive dinner” guests stay one more night with the team before returning home the next day.

106 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 5 Preview”

    • Things fall at equal speeds only in a vacuum. If you add wind resistance and suppose that the cdA of both rides is equal, then there is an equal force slowing them down but a heavier rider has a larger force pulling him forward (down) so he is faster.

      • The more massive rider will have more momentum which may be advantageous in a straight line but a disadvantage on the corners. The comments below about the wheels might be on the mark though.

      • This has been researched and the conclusion was that weight and cdA counterbalance each other and there isn’t any advantage in being heavier.

        • Not sure this is correct. The front area grows as a square of body size, but mass grows as a cube. There ought to be a benefit to being a larger person. That would fit my anecdata as well.

    • Vingegaard and Pogacar would no doubt hit the ground simultaneously, if we dropped them from the top of the tower of Pisa – but two riders with ever so slightly different ratios of (total) weight/frontal area (or, more properly, aerodynamic drag) will have different terminal velocities, that is to say, one or the other will reach a higher speed – and faster, too, if I´m not totally wrong here – before he has to start pedaling to increase his speed.

    • Galileo and gravity were also working against Vingegaard’s rival on the way up the hill… Jonas – you can’t have it both ways.

      Exciting start to the race, and you know Tadej won’t stop trying to attack as the Tour progresses.

  1. JV might have to ride atleast one more “best TT of his career” to have any chance of winning this TdF. Given the multiple potent arrows in the UAE teams quiver, i dont see how the LAB team can match UAE team in the high mountains. Even if JV improves his performance in the third week and Pogacar fades, he may not be able to crack Pogacar just like last year.

  2. For a few minutes I thought we actually had a race but sadly not. Jonas Vinegegaard clearly is at 98%, no issues on short climbs but long high altitude ones not quite. Perhaps no surprise his descending is not as good as last year. Remco Evenepoel was impressive again, we know that he has never been that good at altitude and daredevil descending is not for him, however he managed to get back to those in front and minimise his loses. He also had Mikel Landa with him. Tom Pidcock seems to have been rather exposed, I thought he was dropped before the top of the Lauteret (might be wrong there).

    Going forward I suppose we can cling to the hope that Friday’s TT will shake things up and that yesterdays stage was a bit of a one off, the other climbing stages are somewhat different and might not suit Tadej Pogacer quite so well. Hope springs eternal I suppose.

    Fingers crossed for Cav (same for next couple of days)

    • Well, perhaps Vinny is at 96-7% and Pog is pretty much at 100%. What will that look like in circa 2 weeks? Vinny at 100% and Pog at 96-7%? And will that give Vinny the chance to turn the tables as there’s a lot of climbing in that last week?

      Of course, that may all be rubbish and Pog wins by 8 minutes or so.

      • That’s the big question, is Pogačar now on a downward curve and Vingegaard on the up?

        Without wanting to get into algebra though, it’s hard to go up in a grand tour as all riders tend to fatigue, their power curve flattens out. But the rate of change could be interesting.

        Vingegaard could equally be in the situation Pogačar had last year, coming in short of form and without the deep foundation needed so he can match things in the first days but risks a collapse later. We’ve nothing to go on so far so we’ll see the TT, we’ll see in the Pyrenees and then beyond.

        • Pogacar had multiple rest days coming (just the TT to test him). If all he has to do in the last week is sit on then it is hard to see him fading.

        • To me it remains a fascinating and very evenly balanced contest, even if the respective build-ups for the top two were far from even.

          Yesterday’s course seemed perhaps perfect for Pogacar – Vingegaard after all lost less than ten seconds at the summit of a long climb to 2600m. Had that been the stage finish that and the bonus differential would have been a third of what it ended up. Similarly, if the descent had been as technical in the second half as the first the gap may have remained at 7-10 seconds. Or, if the flatter section had been longer the four chasers probably would have closed things up more. Chapeau to Pogacar for maximising his opportunity, but Vingegaard probably would have signed at the start for less than a minute after those four opening stages.

          • If the stage was different, it would have been raced differently. Pogačar kept some energies to push in the finale as needed, Vingegaard was spent. But the Dane did it great and, as you (and he himself) said, being so little back after these stages is excellent news and testament to an impressive “rehab” & training work (no matter the amount of “pretattica” Visma had been launching themsevels into).
            Unlike inrng, I remember and have reported riders’ power curves actually improving into the 3rd, week, not just “degrading less” or “flattening out”. That’s the best point in favour of Vingegaard, while OTOH I fully agree that the risk is the one which inrng pointed out in the last paragraph. All in all, as you say, still fascinating and balanced. My main question mark is team-wise. *Until now* UAE look like they nailed their prep unlike Visma, this time, but the former also have some issue in ego management which might prove dangerous, the opposite of Visma.

          • He said to Danish Television that they had calculated with about 2 minutes at this point so he was happy wth his deficit so far despite being wiped out on the stage.
            Interesting, if VLAB is racing a Tour de France on negative splits, wonder if that will pay off?

          • Noun
            pretattica f (plural pretattiche)

            From pre- (“pre-”) +‎ tattica (“tactics, stratagem, scheme”).

            (sports) false or misleading information given to the media before a match in order to conceal new tactics

        • Froome who had a punctured lung like Vingegaard said his TT suffered because of it and that’s without the body positioning.
          It will be interesting to compare Vingegaard’s TT this year with last year’s effort.

      • To be honest, I don’t think riders can get better during the Tour. In the third week, everyone is tired, the question is who is wearing more out than the competition. It therefore seems impossible for Vingegaard to go from 9x% to 100% over the course of the race. Since he is obviously a few percent less powerful than Pogacar at the moment, he will have to burn more matches over the next few days just to stay in contention.

        • Yeah, that would be what you naturally expect. Past figures tell a different stories. Whatever the reason…
          We’ll see how it goes this time around.

  3. The speed they rode that stage at yesterday was terrifying to watch! When people say that racing has changed in recent years you can see what they mean. That Vingegaard held on to Pogacar as long as he did is a tribute in itself considering his build up. I’ve enjoyed the early GC action. I wonder if know they are all warmed up there might be some surprise moved on stages not necessarily earmarked as GC days.

  4. I wonder what happened to Evenpoel, he was third at the top of the climb, and then he somehow got passed by the Roglic group and had to chase.

    • Bike handling has never been his number one attribute, but he has done some work on this and made strong progress. So he lost some ground on the technical part of the descent, but not an enormous amount, and then used his top attributes (power, aero) to close the gap once the road became more benign.

      • Then I’ve perhaps done him a disservice. If he can hold on to a slide on that descent and come back fighting it seems his bike handling is improving all the time. I think we’ve seen this anyway, and I’m looking forward to seeing more evidence on the ‘gravel’ stage.

  5. The wheel difference caught my eye over San Luca. Pogi using much more profile than Vingo.I thought he meant to create a tiny lead at the top and then use the profiled wheels’ speed to widen it on the descent straights. It obviously didn’t work there, but it did yesterday, once the technical part was over. Or maybe the wheels didn’t play a part, and I’m talking rubbish, go figure.

    • He does change the wheels / rim height for different days and I think it works to read things into this, low profile lighter rims for uphill attacks, deeper if he thinks he needs them for the flat/descent, it worked in the Giro at least.

    • Yeah, the wheels play a big part if your FTP is over 450 Watts.

      Jokes aside Pogačar was gains 30 seconds every kilometer on his rivals (and we are talking about the likes of Vingo and other top riders) when he’s in attack mode!!!

      “Pogačar was out to test Jonas Vingegaard’s health.” Dr Pogačar is a killer!

  6. Catching out Simon Yates seems to be about as uncomplicated as shouting “what’s that behind you?”.
    In football parlance, Adam Yates has got to be a bit disappointed with that.
    Almeida was mighty.

    • Almedia was indeed mighty. Liked his gesture to Ayuso too. Although Adam Yates won Suisse, Almeida looked much stronger to me. Has he improved his high mountains climbin enough to make him a GT win contender rather than a podium hope? Hope so.

  7. The joys of listening to Carlton Kirby wittering about how Pog wasn’t a great descender while Vinge was – while watching Pog go just one second slower than Pidcock’s KOM on the tunnel-Plan Lachat section

    • Vingegaard often looks fast downhill because of the way he moves his body around, leaning into corners and the way he switches lines so suddenly, he seems to go from straight line/vertical to cornering/leaning over faster than most, it’s an aggressive approach.

    • In fairness to Carlton, whilst I wouldn’t describe Pogacar’s descending as ‘not great’, my experience of watching him descend is that he’s generally good, but not excellent – see MSR for examples of how other riders have caught up with him easily. There’s also been his crash on Spandelles a couple of years ago, and times when Vingegaard seems to have followed him with ease – I have a memory of the tourmalet descent last year for example where Vingegaard looked a lot better than Pogacar.
      So it’s a surprise to hear that he was as quick as Pidcock on the technical part of the Galibier descent. And I too expected Vingegaard to close the 10 second gap on the descent yesterday.

        • As per another comment elsewhere here – Vinge looks more stylish while descending, as does Pidcock. In comparison Pog looks a bit ragged at times, but obv style isn’t always everything.

  8. c’mon
    I might not be a Cav fan but it is slightly taking the pee to put Girmay in the mix even though ‘it’s not even clear he’s a sprinter’ ahead of Cav on a non twisty sprint.

  9. The sprint has a curve at 300 meters and finishline is visible at 250. After the finish in a descent from yesterday( I thought we wouldn’t do that anymore), luckily without mishaps, todays sprint will also be accident free.
    Going through a curve on a bike is not like a train on rails, hard to keep your line, some will be squeezed out.

  10. If you want to learn anything about bike racing, DON’T listen to the hapless withering’s and jokes of CK. I have to change to another language as he spoils and demeans the whole experience.
    Despite that one criticism, the race so far has been excellent in every respect, with the race order only just becoming clearer.

    • I don’t know how many guests they take per day but some days still available say “less than 5 spots available” so it is at least five, but not sure it is every day. They have to employ staff for transfers, hospitality and the admin of all of this but as you say it adds up and yes there are more races in the year.

    • I’m still trying to figure out where Roglic is at. Sometimes he’s obviously a killer for the bonus seconds, but its the opening stages of a grand tour and I can see him being conservative and bidding his time. I think the TT might be most instructive this early in the race. He and his team are looking vulnerable so far.

  11. Random question – and hoping that one of the more knowledgeable cycling historians might know: do we have to go all the way back to Pantani for the last time the Giro winner was leading the Tour? I recall Contador trying to do the double, but I don’t think he ever wore the Yellow Jersey that year. Likewise with Tom Dumolin, who came in 2nd for both GTs but I don’t believe he ever wore either of the jerseys.

    • I’ve checked the records, and you’re correct…the last Giro winner to attempt the double was Froome in 2018 (the same year Dumoulin finished 2nd in both) but he didn’t wear yellow. Others before that have ridden the Tour after winning the Giro, including Nibali, Contador, Hesjedal, Basso, Savoldelli, Simoni…but none of them wore yellow. The last rider to do so was indeed Pantani.

      So already a rather big milestone achieved by Pog!

  12. Vingegaard looked stronger on stage 2, Pogacar looked stronger on stage 4. There’s a long way to go yet. Vingegaard’s support looked vulnerable though, something he’s not used to.

  13. And here I was thinking Pog’s fast! on the road to Plan Lachat, but I didn’t think Pidcock fast. No wonder I found it hair raising.
    The Tour usually isn’t finished after stage four. I’m not worried about things going stale (it’s Vingegaard, folks, he attacks when able) and I hope Uno-X will continue to make entertainment, serious and goofy.

    • I am enjoying watching Uno- X, so much so that I want a bought a jersey on their website! Also loving DSM after the treat they gave us on Stage #1. As much as I like Mr Pog and the bike he rides, cannot support that team or bahrain or astana.

  14. Pogi wasn’t taking better lines on the descent, but he was clearly much stronger sprinting out of the corners. I agree that JV is likely 98%, and it showed in the toughest moments. I’m still optimistic that his best days are yet to come, as the last week really suits him if he finds his best form. He looks likely to lose more time in the first TT and possibly the gravel stage, so the biggest worry is that Pogi puts him away before the final week. Looks like Remco could get closer, however, so it still looks like an exciting race for a while yet.

    • I didn’t comment today, but I’ll take one for the team. I completely agreed with our host’s lack of chain rings for Cavendish. He proved me wrong. I do think he’ll face tougher sprints in this tour, though. It just fell into place today and his positioning was fabulous. It’s very emotional on the UK websites, and well deserved!

      • Last year before his accident he had the highest top speed of all the sprinters and missed out on stage 7 with a mechanical in his 12speed set up. This year he has maintained his speed and switched back to 11 speed for consistency.
        He has the speed to beat any of the sprinters just needs to be placed where he wants by his team. Seems like Morkov is lacking something.

    • @Alex. Warching it on the highlights, my immediate reaction (and this won’t be well received no doubt) was ‘this can’t be happening – it looks like they’ve let him win’.

      I’m sure they didn’t but I’m still struggling to comprehend how he he beat so many sprinters who are now faster than him. Fair play, though.

    • I’ll concede that I didn’t think Cavendish would win his 35th. Chapeau to him for a great victory drawing upon all his experience, instinct, intuition, motivation and acceleration.

      Chapeau too to those who confidently picked him to win, especially with a supporting rationale. That’s quite different to hoping for him to win, or not making a pick at all then dropping in to point out how others got it so wrong…

  15. Hat off for Cav. and team. Coming on 40 years of age and he still produces a win against sprinters almost young enough to be his children. AND when it was most needed. Chapeau.

  16. That was quite a thrill to see Mark Cavendish shouldering his way to the front of the sprint and winning.

    I guessed he could still move the bike fast enough to be competitive or else Astana would t have invested so much in him, but I wasn’t sure he still had the appetite for fighting it out but he was well up for it today – the old attitude and hunger was well in evidence.

    It felt redemptive for him – proving all the doubters wrong – and movingly reminiscent for British cycling fans of a glorious moment when Cavendish ruled sprinting and Wiggins dominated Le Tour.

  17. Never liked Cavendish (particularly because Sagan was DQ’d after Cav’s mistake and subsequent lack of British sporting spirit), but the Netflix mockumentary sold his story to me. The determination, pure sporting purpose of breaking a frankly silly record of ten times bigger cyclist… Good TV work, sure, but still – he seems to be a genuinely warm and nice person and I was rooting for him to do it, althought expected him to fail. How wrong I was. Salute to you, Mr. Cavendish.

  18. Chapeau Cav. Poor field? Sure, but what a sprint. Technically beautiful already from (relatively) far from the line, navigating the last kms and finally mastering the last one. But what makes this sprint so very very long is that it implies hard seasons back then, and then again coming back to a high level and keeping that spark of quality alive with all the hard work needed, training and training surviving last year’s disappointment, surviving a tough start of this TDF. Finally, the finishing seconds, the finish line.
    Standing ovation without having ever been a big fan because a long list of anecdotes, but the last couple of years really make him the strongest pure sprinter ever (irrespective of the record which has only a motivational function and – to me – much above that bucket of question-mark victories with DD some years ago).

    • I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s a poor field. Pure sprinters of the quality of peak Cavendish, Kittel, Greipel etc come along rarely enough as it is, and they’re just not fashionable in the modern peloton – this is pretty much the top cut of current sprinters.

      I’ve said it before, but Cavendish has spent the vast majority of his career being told that he wasn’t as good as he was in his prime. Sure, but who the hell else was ever that good? Those early years were ridiculous. The later years might be even more so…

      • “Who the hell was ever that good?” – TBF, an already declining Petacchi, 5-6 years after his own prime and well below his top level, could beat him *from time to time*, even when Cav was at his very top. But we’re speaking of a serious pretender for that 3rd spot in the list of best pure sprinters ever. Greipel was also a serious rival, although more occasionally, and another great athlete, no doubt.
        Cav’s peaks of dominance were not unprecedented (Cipo or Petacchi), as it wasn’t his top power or his skills. But what makes him the greatest is the capacity and will to come back to the top again and again after some null or difficult seasons (cf. Boonen or Gilbert). Interestingly enough, all of those top sprinters named above have something of that, albeit Cav on a different level.

  19. Cavendish has apparently credited his new Astana coach/performance director, Vasilis Anastopoulos, with reinvigorating his motivation, training plans, mental attitude, etc.
    Cav’s instagram feed has pics of his training blocks in Greece, earlier in the year.

    • Worked together at DQS when Cavendish had that previous renaissance, I believe? Brought in to strengthen an all-out effort in winning this year. Astana have really thrown a lot of resources at it, both in terms of recruitment and how they’ve managed riders and staff around Cavendish to really build a team.

  20. Phillipsen, De Lie, Pedersen, Groenewegen Bauhaus, Bennet, Demare, Kristof, Gaviria, Coquard, jakobdsen, Wout, MvP, what a poor field ,
    What the hell are you talking about? You’re getting grumpier than Larry these days.

      • Oh, didn’t know forth rate armchair warrior brigade now decide who the current best sprinters are. everybody above rank 3 can be beaten by anyone’s grandpa, I guess.
        This place is becoming so ridiculous. When you just state facts of rankings some ‘expert’ accuses you of being ‘fanboy’. Grow up, folks, seriously.

        • Ok, now talk me of bunch sprints won at WT level this season by your sprinters who can beat anyone or whatever, and who’re currently racing at the TDF. While Merlier sits at 6, Milan at 5 and Kooji at 4.
          Philipsen’s got 2 (3 if you include a twelve men one at Sanremo), Pedersen 1…while De Lie, Bennett, Kristoff, Groenewegen all at nought.

          At any level, those three missing guys this season do sum up more bunch sprint victories than Philipsen, Pedersen, De Lie, Bennett, Kristoff, Groenewegen – i.e., the *six* most prolific of the rest – ALL TOGETHER.

          Sprinting is about being the fastest and winning, not getting a valuable 3rd place or having been good last year.

          But you can also read several opinions on this matter, including inrng’s, and confirming the above, well before Cav’s feat made it so relevant for the fanboys. Don’t worry, for a 39 yo it’s impressive to be competitive at the TDF whatever the rivals, it doesn’t take away from him that they weren’t such an impressive competition. The monstre job was arriving there, not beating these rivals, who, OTOH, were the only one available at this race!

  21. I have to wonder if IR purposely left Cav out of today’s favorites so he (IR) wouldn’t jinx him (Cav). Whatever – it worked! I will say though, that as the sprint unfolded and the other sprinters realized who was taking the lead, I do wonder if any of them thought, OK, let’s let Cav get this one. I won’t go 110%. The finish wasn’t even close. But whatever, chapeau to Cav. That’s an achievement that many thought would never ever happen.

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