Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Tour de France 2013 : Stage 5 Preview

LISTEN to the experts, talk to the race organisers, they will say the same thing. Stage Five should finish in a bunch sprint.

And to be fair they would have a point. Stage Five should indeed finish with the field arriving en masse.

The route heads from Cagnes-sur-Mer to Marseilles, roughly following the Mediterranean coast for the entirety of it's 228km length. Just four categorised climbs are included, one Cat 3 and three Cat 4's and none of these should cause the big sprinters a great deal of problem. The last one, the Cat 4 Cote des Bastides,  has it's summit 30km from the finish.

However with just 12km to go there is a little lump on the profile which may have a significant amount to say in what happens with the stage result.

The Col de la Gineste is uncategorised. 7.3km long it's average gradient from the west side is a mere 3.1% and for 3 km in the middle it is pretty flat. But the ramps at the start and finish of the climb will be enough, if the pace is high enough, to stretch the peleton out.

And it will be almost guaranteed that someone will try their luck with a big attack.

The reason is the descent. Steep and with a couple of tight corners, if someone who is fearless and can descend well gets clear over the top, they may have a good chance on getting to the finish alone.

Slyvain Chavanel (yes, him again)  could be one as could the likes of Lieuwe Westra of Vaconsoleil.

Cannondale will almost certainly be on the front for the ascent as they attempt to shake Mark Cavendish loose and give their man Peter Sagan a chance at the win that has eluded him so far.

Cav can descend well but he has been suffering from bronchitis recently so may not be at full fitness. But he will be smarting from missing out on the yellow jersey on Saturday so will want a modicum of revenge. And this would have been one stage he would have had circled in his racebook very early on.

Sagan himself has been pipped by one or two to the line so far, including the new Malliot Jaune Simon Gerrans on stage three, a man he would have expected to beat. And I think he may come up short again. Remember he is not a pure sprinter but will be in the mix, simply to pick up some more points in the race for the Green Jersey.

Favourite for me is Alexander Kristoff. Beaten into second place by Marcel Kittel on stage one but he picked up some good results just prior to the Tour and the Gineste will not be a problem for him. He has the speed and with Cav suffering may just have the edge.

For an outsider look to Jose Rojas of Movistar. He was 9th on stage one and 3rd on stage three. He has a good chance of another top 10 finish at this one.

Other than the Gineste there is one more obstacle for the peleton to navigate before the line. The road swings through a 90 degree left hand turn just 450m from the line. Position here will be paramount and only those in the first five positions out of this corner will have a realistic chance of success.

Also don't be surprised if there is a tumble at some point. This is the first opportunity for a sprint since day one and I can't see the sprinters teams wanting to miss out. So the pace will be high and nerves will too.

It will make for an exciting finish, buses permitting of course!


Categorised Climbs:

I talk a lot about the number of 'categorised climbs' along the route but for those new to cycling it probably seems like insane rambling.

A bit like trying to explain to a Premier League referee that you ARE allowed to give a penalty against Manchester United at Old Trafford. It just won't compute!

So I've put together a little guide here:

There are five different levels of categorisation for climbs ranging from Cat 4 through to Cat 1 and finally the HC 'Hors Categorie' or 'Beyond Category' climb.

The way the organisation decides on a climbs category has changed over the years. Folklore states that back in the 50's Tour climbs were categorised by the gear needed to propel a Citroen 2CV up them! HC climbs? Yep, there the ones where you got out and pushed!

Nowadays the length of the climb, average gradient, height in metres as well the position in the stage are all taken into account to give the final category. This is all decided by the race organisers and it has been known for certain climbs to change category.

Basically Cat 4 is not bad, but HC, it's going to be a tough day at the office!

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