Jul 8, 2014

Tour de France Stage 4 Review/Stage 5 Preview

Tour de France Stage 4 Review/Stage 5 Preview

Stage 4 Review

Stage winner: Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano)
Three stage wins in four days now. With 5 km to go, this was quite obviously a Kittel day and even though his leadout got lost in the shuffle a bit, it didn’t matter as nobody else has a truly cohesive leadout and Kittel was left as the best and most powerful in a group of freelance sprinters.

Yellow Jersey: Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
No changes here at all on the flat stage. Nibali is still the leader. Giventhe repetition there will be from yesterday, maybe this section should have been copy and pasted from yesterday. Yes, it was that scintillatingly dull today.

Of note, Chris Froome did crash but will be fine and Andy Schelck did not start this morning after tearing his meniscus in a crash yesterday

Green Jersey: Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
Despite Kittel winning the stage, Sagan extended his lead as Kittel didn’t contest the sprint in the middle of the stage and Sagan took the top honors beyond the two breakaway riders. This is too easy for Sagan, especially if he poaches a stage win somewhere along the line.

King of the Mountains: Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis)
Lemoine missed the break, but so did closest pursuers Biel Kadri (AG2R La Mondiale) and Jens Voigt (Trek Factory). No Lemoine is guaranteed two more days in the jersey as there are no climbs tomorrow on stage 5.

White Jersey: Peter Sagan (Cannondale) to be worn by Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale)
Sagan continues to hold this jersey and will continue to do so until either he crashes or we reach the type of climbs he cannot handle as he is going to be there at the end of every stage for some time going forward. In second place and wearing the jersey is Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale). Bardet is an actual contender for this jersey (finished in the top 15 overall last year) as opposed to Sagan who, while a talented rider, is still just a place holder here.

Tactical Masterclass: Cannondale
Peter Sagan had a mechanical inside the final 20 km. This is a terrible place to have that happen, especially for a sprinter. Most GC men can, with help of their teams get back into the group. But Sagan is a sprinter and Cannodale was very good at sheparding its leader forward. Sagan, after being absent early, suddenly appeared on Marcel Kittel’s wheel in the finale and followed on the way to a good 4th place finish on the stage and more points (in fact enough to keep him in ste green jersey

Tactical Blunder: Omega Pharma-Quick Step
This team needs a new sprint train strategy. This isn’t 2010 and this isn’t HTC-High Road any more. Other teams are now just as well drilled as the Tony Martin, Mark Renshaw, Mark Cavendish combo and they are innovating the strategy. Every day, OPQS gets on the front with 4-5 km to go. And every day they get swamped with 1-2 km to go by Giant-Shimano. While they did manage to disrupt the Giant train today, they failed to hold their own train together making the finish a chaotic one with nobody really in control. Especially without Cavendish, this is advantage Kittel. A change in tactics needs to be in order here.

Stage 5 - Ypres - Arenberg Porte du Hainaut

Expectations entering the stage: Carnage and pain. Since the cobbles were announced as being a part of the Tour, stage 5 has been one of the most anticipated of the entire race. There is an expectation of time gaps (Alberto Contador lost time to Andy Schelck in 2010) and crashes among GC men that reset the landscape (see Tyler Hamilton and Iban Mayo in 2004 and Frank Schleck in 2010). There are also teams here with their cobbled hard men. Sep Vanmarcke and Lars Boom are in the race for Belkin as is Fabian Cancellara for Trek Factory. Some of these guys might be on team duty (as Cancellara was for the Schlecks in 2010 when he essentially gifted Thor Hushovd the stage in the interest of more time gain for his leader) while others will be allowed to go for the stage win.

Jersey’s in play
  • Yellow Jersey - Vincenzo Nibali is a small Italian climber. He is not well suited to these type of cobbles. Even if he rides well, there is a chance he will lose the Yellow jersey, if not to another GC man, then to someone like Sagan who rode to a top 10 finish on the cobbles at Paris-Roubaix this spring.
  • White Jersey - As good as Sagan is, nobody is entirely safe from the cobbles, especially if it rains (and rain is in the current forecast). Either by puncture or other means, Sagan could easily lose the jersey to someone like Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).

GC items of note: Most of the reason this stage has been so discussed and anticipated is the lack of experience most GC men have on the cobbles. Expect someone to lost big time tomorrow.

Stage Pick: Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin)
Fabian Cancellara is the obvious favorite, but that makes him too obvious on a stage like this. Vanmarcke seems to be in good shape and he will be able to finish that which he has failed to finish in the finale of Paris-Roubaix the last two years, that is if he’s not on team duty for Bauke Mollema (and he might ignore that duty searching for a result anyway given the lack of sponsorship or future for the team for next season).

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