9 Big Photos from Stage 5sirotti

Stage 5 Results

General Classification after Stage 5:

Voeckler succeeds from breakaway on sprinter's stagecyclingnews
Full Results (click on "Stage Standing") —
Break succeeds; Rabobank's Gesink crashes and loses big time.velonews
  Last 3 Km (05:00 dutch) — nos
  Stage 5 Highlights (01:59) — eurosport
Voeckler wins in
Voeckler a tenu tê
Graham Watson Stage 5 Photosgrahamwatson
Cavendish Post Stage 5 Interview and other clips: "It was a nervious day from km zero" — versus
  Stage 5 Recap/Highlights (03:12) —
Armstrong, Andreu back on speaking termsvelonews
A good shot of Robert Gesink in the team car: a broken wrist has ended his Tour — ANP
Is It Boring Yet?: A Tour win after a career of "decent little second-tier wins" — cyclocosm
9 Big Photos from Stage 5sirotti
  ITV stage 5 podcast with Matt Rendell, Ned Boulting and Chris BoardmanITV
  A well edited montage of video highlights set to music (02:02) — eurosport

Post Stage Analysis

First Win for Voeckler
Voeckler wins stage, Cancellara keeps Yellow after another windy stage

A solo winner today, as Thomas Voeckler of Bbox Bouygues Telecom celebrated his first ever stage victory at the Tour de France. Voeckler joined an early break of six riders who spent 173 kilometers off the front of the main field. The French rider is a familiar face in the breakaways, but never before has his agressiveness paid off as well as it did today. Mikhail Ignatiev, who also rode the breakaway, held on for second, while Mark Cavendish won the sprint for third.

In the crosswinds along the coast, Astana rode hard on the front and temporarily split the bunch. Despite their efforts, the general classification remains unchanged today, with the exception of Rabobank’s Robert Gesink, who leaves the Tour today after a crash. Fabian Cancellara wears the Yellow Jersey for another day tomorrow, as the Tour counts down to its first mountain stage in two day’s time.

The Story

After 23 kilometers of racing, six riders rode together at the front: Thomas Voeckler of Bbox Bouygues, Anthony Geslin and Yauheni Hutarovich of Français des Jeux, Marcin Sapa of Lampre-Ngc, Mikhail Ignatiev of Katusha, and Albert Timmer of Skil-Shimano. The main field proved rather uninterested today, and the break soon built up an advantage of over 8 minutes. Ignatiev became the race leader on the road. In a game of chicken with Astana, Saxo Bank sat on their hands, content to let Ignatiev run out the clock.

Unwilling to let the break have all the fun, Columbia-HTC soon went to work on the front, and by kilometer 88, the break had come back to a more reasonable 3:35. With 77 kilometer to race, the Côte des Treilles piqued the interest of Astana and Saxo Bank, who began to work on the front. The six riders in the break continued to hold their advantage as Anthony Geslin of Français des Jeux took the points at the summit.

As the bunch hit the coast near Port-Leucate, the winds made for nervy racing today and Astana rode hard at the front through the crosswinds. Around 50 kilometers to go, the main field split in two parts. Of the favorites, only Denis Menchov missed the split, another bad moment in a less than stellar Tour so far for the Russian. Tom Boonen suffered two flat tires, and also languished for a time in the second group. The gap between the chase and the Yellow Jersey group hovered around a minute. Robert Gesink, who crashed hard on the descent from the Côte de Treilles, dangled just off the back of the chase group in a desperate but doomed effort to stay on terms. Up the road, the break clung to its advantage which dropped steadily thanks to the hard riding by Astana.

With 20 kilometers to go, the wind shifted again, this time to a headwind. The main field reformed after the chase group’s efforts proved successful. With Astana retiring from the front of the Yellow Jersey group, the gap to the breakaway began to increase. Ordinarily, a head wind gives an advantage to the main field over the escape, because the main field has more legs to do the work. But today, many of those legs proved tired after yesterday’s difficult team time trial. Despite the efforts of Columbia-HTC, Garmin-Slipstream, Cervélo TestTeam, and Agritubel, the break continued to hold its advantage as they approached the finish.

With 6 kilometers to go, Mikhail Ignatiev of Katusha made the first move from the break. Hutarovich, Timmer, and Voeckler covered, and it was four together. As the break approached a roundabout, Voeckler jumped hard, hard enough to open a gap on Ignatiev, Hutarovich, and Timmer. The three hesitated. Head down Voeckler rode, and soon had just under 10 seconds over the following three. Passing through the roundabout with 2.5 kilometers to go, Voeckler continued to hold his advantage, though Timmer made a late bid to bridge.

Too late for Timmer, as it turned out. Inside the final kilometer, Timmer still chased desperately, as Voeckler approached the finish. In the background, the main field came up quickly, but not quickly enough to interrupt Voeckler’s victory celebration. Thomas Voeckler won his first ever stage win today, five years to the day after he took his first Yellow Jersey. The French rider, who is so often on the attack, crossed the line kissing his wedding ring, and dedicated his win to his wife and son.

In his typically modest way, Voeckler explained, “Winning a big Tour in cycling is never going to happen for me, so I try to win stages when I can. I’m very happy for my team and what we’ve achieved and I hope we can come back next year and do it again.” Voeckler’s Bbox Bouygues Telecom team is currently in search of a sponsor. Today marks Voeckler’s most important victory so far in his career, which includes a French National Championship on the road, and a win at the difficult one-day race GP de Plouay. His sports director, Jean-René Bernadeau, who celebrated his birthday today, exclaimed, “His is not like the rest of the world, Thomas!” “He is strong, very sain, very pro. He won brilliantly, intelligently,” said the joyous Bernadeau. Happy Birthday, Jean-René!

Behind Voeckler, Ignatiev held off the main field to take second on the stage, while Cavendish won the bunch sprint for third ahead of Tyler Farrar. Fabian Cancellara finished safely in the field and will wear the Yellow Jersey for another day. Lance Armstrong sits second at same time, while Alberto Contador is third at 19 seconds.

As for Robert Gesink, he finished the stage 9:35 after Thomas Voeckler. His Rabobank team-mate Grischa Niermann escorted him to the finish in what was surely a long and torturous ride. According to De Telegraaf, Gesink has a fracture in his left wrist and a dislocated shoulder. If all goes well, the team has said he will likely ride the Vuelta a España, which starts this year in the Netherlands.

After the stage, Cancellara called the stage nervous with its shifty winds and small roads. A stage like this is “hard for the head, because you have to be 100 percent concentrated, and to have all the time the team.” He said he focused on staying up front today and he also credited his team with a “great team time trial” yesterday. With the mountains coming up, “we get more into the real Tour de France.” “In Andorre, it will be hard,” he predicted. Cancellara will have to ride smart on tomorrow’s tricky finish, if he wants to carry the Yellow Jersey into the mountains.

General Classification Update

Here is the current top ten:
Fabian Cancellara Saxo Bank
Lance Armstrong Astana :00
Alberto Contador Astana :19
Andreas Klöden Astana :23
Levi Leipheimer Astana :31
Bradley Wiggins Garmin-Slipstream :38
Haimar Zubeldia Astana :51
Tony Martin Columbia-HTC :52
David Zabriskie Garmin-Slipstream 1:06
David Millar Garmin-Slipstream 1:07

The favorites survived to finish in the main field today, though Denis Menchov had to work for it, as he got caught out by the Astana-created split. Robert Gesink was the only exception, and the Dutch climber is now out of the race after his crash. The bad luck continues for the Dutch Rabobank team.

Other Classifications: Mark Cavendish of Columbia-HTC added to his lead in the points classification today after he finished third on the stage. Cavendish now has 96 points. Thor Hushovd of Cervélo TestTeam remains in second with 70 points, though he did not score today. Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Slipstream, meanwhile, picked up 24 points with his fourth place finish, and sits third behind Hushovd with 54. Jussi Veikkanen of Français des Jeux still leads the mountains classification ahead of Tony Martin, while Martin still leads the young riders classification by 39 seconds ahead of Roman Kreuziger of Liquigas-Doimo. Astana leads the teams classification by 2:23 over Saxo Bank.

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow’s stage runs between Girona and Barcelona and should favor the breakaway specialists over the sprinters. It could be another windy day for the Tour de France, as much of the stage follows the coast. There is a climb at 22 kilometers to go, which could tempt an attacker, and the finish is uphill. The climb begins at 2 kilometers to go, and rises at 6.6% for about a kilometer. The final kilometer is mostly false-flat climbing.

We can expect Lance Armstrong to make a play for the race lead on this finish, and Fabian Cancellara will need to ride at the front for this finish if he wants to keep his Yellow Jersey for another day. The final climb is well-within his capabilities so long as he does not make any tactical errors. It could be an entertaining show-down between the top two in the general classification, should they choose to ride for it tomorrow. Otherwise, it is a day for the breakaways again tomorrow. — Gavia

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Course Preview

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The Climbs
Col de Feuilla, 4.0 km, avg. 3.3 %, Catégorie 4
Côte de Treilles, 1.3 km, avg. 4.2 %, Catégorie 4

Another day, another lovely jaunt along the Mediterranean. It’s a mostly flat ride today departing from the seaside town of Le Cap d’Agde. There are only two categorized climbs on the menu, and they appear just outside Saint-Jean-de-Barrou at about the halfway point of the stage. After the climbs, the stage races along at nearly sea level for more than 70 kilometers. The stage finishes in the Place de Catalogne in Perpignan. A sprint finish is all but inevitable.

Le Cap d’Agde sits on the coast not far from Montepellier, which hosted the stage 4 team time trial. The Tour organizers have done well to minimize the transfers in this opening week of the Tour, which showcases France’s Meditarranean coast. Le Cap d’Agde sits at the base of an ancient volcano, mont Saint-Loup, and the coastline is decorated with black basalt rock formations. Like La Grande-Motte, Le Cap d’Agde was developed in the 1970s as a pleasure port and tourist destination. This year marks the first visit of the Tour de France to the town.

Perpignan, by contrast, has hosted a stage finish for the Tour de France on eight occasions since 1947. It has also hosted the départ nine times since 1947, for those keeping score at home. The most recent winner in Perpignan was French rider Laurent Desbiens of Cofidis during the 1997 Tour. The stage ran from Andorre to Perpignan, and Jan Ullrich of Deutsche Telekom held the race lead. In 2001, stage 12 began in Perpignan and Félix Cárdenas of Kelme celebrated victory on the Plateau de Bonascre. François Simon of Bonjour wore the leader’s jersey that day, thanks to a break during stage 8 that gained 35 minutes over the main field. François was the third of three Simon brothers to wear the Yellow Jersey during his career.

Profile Details

The stage begins and ends in the flats, with a bit of climbing in the middle to keep it interesting. In the first 70 kilometers from Le Cap d’Agde, the profile never gains more than 30 meters in elevation. Did I mention that this stage is flat?

Capestang will host the first intermediate sprint, which comes after 40.5 kilometers of racing. From there, the stage climbs slightly. Passing through Montredon-des-Corbières and Thézan-des-Courbières, the course gains 100 meters over 60 kilometers. The second intermediate sprint in Saint-Jean-de-Barrou follows a climbing false flat and comes after 107.5 kilometers of racing.

Just outside Saint-Jean-de-Barrou comes the two categorized climbs of the day. The Col de Feuilla climbs 4 kilometers with an average gradient of 3.3%. Easy, like pie. The climb is rated a category 4. After a short descent, the second climb of the day, the Côte de Treilles, follows. The Côte de Treilles is shorter and climbs 1.4 kilometers at an average gradient of 4.2%. Also a category 4, the Côte de Treilles summits with 77 kilometers to race to the finish.

After the two climbs, the road descends quickly to sea level and there it remains for the rest of the stage. The final intermediate sprint of the day comes in Canet-en-Roussillon with 38 kilometers to race. The Tour is now in the Pyrénées-Orientales region and passes through Agelès-sur-Mer and Elne. There is a gradual climb inside the final 20 kilometers, but the finish is flat.

The final 5 kilometers of the course are a tricky business. Just inside 5 kilometers to go, the riders pass through a roundabout to the avenue d’Arglès-sur-Mer. Inside 3 kilometers to go comes a second roundabout, and the riders will exit on the avenue J.F. Kennedy. Just outside 1 kilometer to go, the road makes a gentle right turn on to boulevard Félix Mercator. Then, it’s a slight right-hand bend to the boulevard des Pyrénées.

The final kilometer is a technical one and the sprinters will be hoping the usual dry Meditarranean weather holds. Inside the final kilometer, the course makes a 90 degree right turn from the boulevard des Pyrénées to the Place de Catalogne. This finish will suit a sprinter with formidable bike handling and an explosive acceleration.

Who to Watch

The finish of today’s stage with its sharp turn inside the final kilometer is made for a sprinter like Robbie McEwen with acrobatic bike handling and big hops. In McEwen’s absence, Mark Cavendish should handle this finish very nicely. Heinrich Haussler has also shown an ability to accelerate quickly. A sprinter like Daniele Bennati, who is more in the style of Alessandro Petacchi with a slower initial acceleration and a high top-end speed, may have more difficulty here. This finish will also likely cause problems for the lead-out trains and give an advantage to the sprinters who have a knack for positioning and timing.

My pick? Oscar Freire. A crafty bike handler, Freire will be well-placed in the finale and know how to time his jump to perfection. — Gavia

  Bernard Hinault Previews Stage 5 in english and en franç
Gavia (updates to this preview will be made during the race and especially the day before the stage with current analysis)<-->