Jul 9, 2014

Tour de France Stage 5 Review/Stage 6 Preview

Stage 5 Review

Stage winner: Lars Boom (Belkin)
This is the biggest win of Lars Boom’s career and he did it easily on the hardest day of the Tour. Nobody had anything for Boom when he attacked at the end and none of the other stars of the cobbles were anywhere near him when he made the selection with three Astana riders at the end of the race. For his flagging team, this will be a big pick me up.

Yellow Jersey: Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
Nibali is still the leader, but that does not tell the story at all. Nibali’s ride in the rain on the cobblestones is one of the all time great rides since the specialization of the peloton in the 1990s. After dropping all of the other major GC contenders, Nibali now has a lead of 50” on Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) who often struggles in high mountains and a lead of 1’45” to Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol). All other GC men are below Van Den Broeck with pre-race co-favorite Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) now 2’37” behind and the other pre-race co-favorite Chris Froome (Team Sky) out after crashing twice on the wet tarmac before the cobbles even started.

Green Jersey: Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
Sagan is frustrated as he still hasn’t gotten his stage win. Today, he was out of position when Boom went with the Astana train to make the final selection and found that Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory) had no interest in towing him to the line. Sagan needs to rethink his tactics to win as nobody ever works with him. Still, he gained more points in the Green Jersey competition and is now far enough clear of Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) and Bryan Coquard (Europcar) that he can have a bad day and not lose the jersey.

King of the Mountains: Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis)
No climbs so Lemoine kept his jersey today. Still, he did well as he was in the final group of 16 before it broke apart at the end.

White Jersey: Peter Sagan (Cannondale) to be worn by Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)
Sagan remains the leader here, now by 4” over Kwiatkowski who had a very good day on the cobbles. Assuming Sagan capitulates in the mountains, Kwiatkowski leads Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) by 1’21” in the actual battle for this jersey down the line.

Tactical Masterclass: Astana
When you have three of the final four riders contesting the stage win and finish 2nd, 3rd and 8th on a stage where nobody expected anything out of you, you have done well. That was Astana today led by Yellow Jersey Vincenzo Nibali. The most important tactic of the day was one not seen much recently: put a rider in the breakaway. With Lieuwe Westra up the road, Astana was free to ride at its own pace early in the day and didn’t have to take on the responsibility of the chase. From there, Westra smartly dropped back from the break as Astana riders were whittled away on the cobbles and then he drove the split in the front group resulting in his teammates Jakob Fuglsang and Nibali finishing 2-3 on the stage and taking the top two spots on GC.

Also, the efforts of Team Sky should not be forgotten as Geraint Thomas did a great job of pacing new team leader Richie Porte away from the Contador group and helping place his man in the top 10 overall after losing team leader Chris Froome.

Tactical Blunder: None
While this was a day for great tactical racing (Belkin was also very good alongside the already mentioned Astana and Sky), nobody really blundered today. It was a day of good tactics for nearly every team that had more than one rider in the front and the teams that didn’t have riders in the front lacked them as much for lack of legs and cobbles talent as anything else.

Stage 6 - Arras - Reims

Expectations entering the stage: An easy pace early with a small breakaway, especially with rain forecast again. From there the sprint teams will take over and Kittel will probably win another sprint.

Jersey’s in play
  • Polka Dot Jersey - Lemoine once again must defend his spots. Either he needs to be in the break, or he needs Biel Kadri (AG2R La Mondiale) to not be in the break. Same situation as Stage 4

GC items of note: Nothing is changing here barring a crash. Bunch sprint here we come (or breakaway that changes nothing)

Stage Pick: Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano)

Same as it ever was. Picking again Kittel on an obvious sprint stage is a fools errand until someone actually beats him.

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