Le Tour 2019 - Stage 5


It’s fair to say that today was a hilly day at the Tour de France. Four classified climbs, of which two were 3rd category, and two were 2nd category (these are harder than the 3rd category hills). Yesterday I suggested that today, there would be a break and the stage would be won in the break (by a non-GC rider). Yeah! I was wrong! It won’t be the last time!

However, it was apparent that such a tough stage would shake things up, and that the majority of the sprinters would be dropped. Sprinters that can get over the hills are few and far between but there is Peter Sagan who is almost invincible on any terrain, and Wout Van Aert. Additionally, others such as Greg Van Avermaet and Michael Mathews would also likely feature.

I was, partially correct. An early break did go that contained Tim Wellens, Mads Würtz Schmidt, Toms Skujins and Simon Clarke. With 22km to go the final rider in the break was bought back, and although ex-World Champion Rui Costa tried to get away it came down to a sprint for the remaining riders in the bunch, with Sagan coming out on top.

As part of today’s race we saw many riders going backwards, including some good riders such as Simon Yates who you wouldn’t necessarily think should be in such a position. It could be that he was easing himself up so that he could be fresh to help Adam tomorrow, or later on in the race. Other riders do this as well, so that on a stage they think they might be able to target and win, they ease up the day before (or for a few days before) so that they can be fresh. It’s important to understand that in a stage race not everyone is racing for the GC there’s the stage of the particular day, and other competitions as well (points, mountains, etc). This can of course lead to some confusion amongst spectators who don’t always understand such nuances and subtle aspects. “How can he be good enough to win today if he came home in the last group yesterday?” is a remark i’ve heard before.

But, how will the riders be feeling now? The four climbs that occurred today will have given everyone’s legs a test (even the GC riders). It’ll be a pre race day ride for the big first mountain outing tomorrow. For other’s there will be some fatigue starting to creep in. Those who’ve either been on the front keeping tempo (Deceuninck riders, Jumbo-Visma earlier on, Bora for looking after Sagan, etc) and who have also been in the break on a regular basis will be feeling tired. Tomorrow will compound that as there’s nowhere to hide.

Seven mountains in a little over a 160km, will sap the riders. I expect that Deceuninck will ride tempo during the early part of the stage, and then Ineos, and some other teams will take over. I’d like to think that ‘G’ will do well, and be right up there, but have nagging doubts. Whatever happens, the blue touchpaper will be lit!

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Richard Stern