Take It From Carol: Tour de France Stage 5

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Hello hilly Vosges! Today is a brand new sorta day......

Short, steep punchy climbs. Hold your breath descents. Sounds fabulous. Yet.....

Stage 5 will not inspire the GC contenders to battle. There are too many flat sections for those that survive the final two climbs (pro cyclists would call these hills) of the day. The flats allow the riders to regroup so there is typically little desire to attack. As well, with Stage 6 and La Planche des Belles Filles tomorrow, those with yellow jersey ambitions will, if able to choose, save their legs.

Stage 5 with its rollercoaster profile and close proximity of a category 2 and category 3 climbs (Cote des Trois Epis/Cote des Cinq Chateaux) as the riders approach the finish will ensure that the pure sprinters will not be able to organize for an exciting bunch field sprint finish. They, more than likely, will be dragging their thick, fast-twitch loaded bottom halves up and over.

Stage 5 seems the perfect stage for our one day classic riders. The puncheurs who excel at multiple short, steep climbs (think Ardennes classics in the spring) and live for profiles like today. However, we are in a Grand Tour. This is not one day. The Tour is a relentless assault on the body and puncheurs tend not to be quite as reliably punchy as we often hope! Often, this class of riders in the Tour strategizes and picks their day. So we watch, praying that one or two have chosen today to light up the stage. We pray we have the heart of a baroudeur-rouleur today! Baroudeur in French describes a fighter. In cycling, a baroudeur-rouleur is a man braveenough to go on a suicidal solo assault.

Stage 5, however, also offers 10km to the finish after the last climb. This distance is quite enough for a surviving lead group to engulf any baroudeur-rouleur after the final climb. This is unfortunate for us, the viewer, because the final 10km turns “brave” into perhaps crazy or foolish.

Having said all that, today is still most likely a day for riders such as De Gendt, Alaphilippe, Matthews, Van Avermaet, Valverde, Schachmann, Mohoric, and of course Sagan.

So what does today have in store for us? If your passion is the polka dot jersey, then look for an early breakaway with those riders with KOM (King of the Mountain) ambitions. If you are a Sagan fan....and who isn’t truly?!...his dominance in the green jersey battle will be on display and we can never count him out for the stage win (he is able, the question is he willing today?). If not...really....no Sagan?!?!?, then wait to tune in until the penultimate climb at the Cote des Trois Epis...

One of the great things about today: the unknown is not as easily managed by the dominant GC teams as in year’s past. In other words, the severe climbs combined with multiple flat profiles for sprinters in year’s past have given a bit of ground to a more varied Tour profile. These sorta climb/flat days (with climbs that multiple types of riders can survive) make the overall race harder to control. We, and the dominant GC teams, are in unchartered territory the more stages like today are peppered in.

Perhaps the best part of Stage 5: it can be any man’s day....and we just don’t know!