Stage 5: Limoges – Le Liroan
216km Mountain Stage – Suited to a breakaway or puncheurs
For the second day in a row, the result was decided in a photo finish as Marcel Kittel won his first stage of this year’s race by millimetres from The Wolf’s value bet, Bryan Coquard. Listening to Kittel after the race, he was clearly emotional and it will be a huge weight off his shoulders after two poor showings in the previous sprint finishes. His big sprint rival, Andre Greipel, had a poor showing today as it appeared that he didn’t have the legs to power on from the good position that his team positioned him in. The pressure will be building on him now and if he fails to win on Thursday’s flat stage, he’ll face an anxious wait until the second week of the Tour to try and gain a stage win.
The sprinters now take a back seat for a day as Stage 5 moves into the mountains, where it’ll be a case of survival for Kittel, Cavendish, Greipel et al. The riders face another 200km+ stage, for the third day in a row, plus 6 Categorised climbs thrown in for good measure. Team tactics will play a huge part in today’s result and The Wolf thinks that this will be one of the hardest stages to predict. As holders of the yellow jersey, the Tinkoff team should be expected to control the peloton, and chase down any breakaways. However, they might not want to expend too much energy for a jersey that they will probably lose on Stage 7 anyway, so they might choose to protect Contador given that he is struggling with his injuries from Stages 1 & 2. This means that it’s possible for an early breakaway to ride to the finish.
Team Sky could use the two Category 2 climbs to control to race and try to put some time into Froome’s main rivals, notably Alberto Contador. If this happens, the chances of a breakaway succeeding are slim. This is not a stage where you can win the Tour but it is certainly one that the Tour can be lost, something that the main GC contenders will need to be wary of. Some of the descents on the stage could have a bigger impact on GC classification than the climbs as, on paper, they look to be quite technical.
A late attack is another scenario for the stage finish. If all of the main GC contenders are together at the base of the final climb, they will all ease off, leaving it to the punchy riders to climb to glory.
In the long term, this stage should see a thinning out of GC contenders as some big time gaps open up. We should also see which of the riders have serious ambitions for the King of the Mountains jersey.
Alaphilippe – $6.00
The Etixx-QuickStep team will be riding high after Kittel’s win yesterday and the young Frenchman has the ability to take out the stage win if it ends in a sprint. He performed well in his 2nd place on Stage 2, showing The Wolf that he is in decent form. The technical finish suits him and he has proven that he likes this type of uphill finish. The tactics of the stage will have to play into his strengths but if it ends in a sprint, he’ll be hard to beat.
Valverde – $7.00
As probably the best climber amongst the puncheurs, Valverde has the opportunity to wear the Maillot Jaune for the first time since 2008. Unlike Alaphilippe & Sagan, the Spanish rider has the ability to stay with the main contenders up the Col de Font de Cere, if they decided to motor on. This would leave him with no major rivals to contest a sprint finish if he can drop Alaphilippe & Sagan.
Kelderman – $23.00
Tactics will play in big part in this Stage and Kelderman will be hoping that he is in a position to launch a late attack up the final climb. Whilst he isn’t strong in the really big mountains, this type of lumpy terrain is perfect for him. He would be able to time trial his way up the climb then use his decent sprint to the finish.
Dumoulin – $67.00
In the same mould as Kelderman, Dumoulin will be hoping to launch a late attack up the final climb. He’ll try to anticipate the favourites and move off their wheel, if he can open up a decent gap he’ll be hard to catch.
Cummings – $23
The Brit will be one of the favourites to launch an early breakaway and hope that he is left alone to solo to victory. He’ll be given free reign by his Dimension Data team for 24hours and he has shown in the past that he is very good at winning from breakaway attacks. He soloed to victory in this year’s Dauphine & has won a stage in every World Tour event he has raced this year.
Roughies: Polanc – $201
The young Slovenian could be a good wildcard to play if he gets into the right breakaway. He’ll need things to go his way, notably the peloton leaving the breakaway alone, but he has shown good form this season and won a stage at last year’s Giro. He can climb well and has a decent sprint. The Wolf likes him at big odds.
Julian Alaphilippe – $10
The Wolf tipped him at $17 pre race and thinks he is still great value. He currently leads the young rider classification and despite a huge test coming up over the next few days he has shown more than enough to suggest he can continue into the mountains. His runner up finish in Stage 2 is evidence that he has brought his winning form at the Tour of California with him to Le Grande Boucle.