08/07 - Stage 5 - Arras to Amiens - 189.5 km

The route
Even though the profile doesn’t look very intimidating, this stage could easily turn out to be yet another chaotic day in the Tour de France. There aren’t any KOM points up for grabs but it doesn’t mean it’s completely flat. The 189.5 km between Arras and Amiens include numerous small ascents throughout the day.

Many sprinters missed out on stage 2 in Holland. They will be very eager to get in the mix this time. However, due to the weather conditions, it won’t be a surprise if Sunday’s scenario repeats itself today. The weather forecast predicts showers during the day and crosswind for the majority of the stage. In this terrain, the riders will be completely exposed to the wind without many places to seek shelter. Every stage in this year’s Tour de France offers an opportunity to shake the general classification. If the wind is strong, we can expect another dramatic day.

As the peloton reaches Fouilloy with 17.5 km to go, they turn left. From here, a headwind will accompany the riders for the remaining part of the stage. Again, the terrain is wide open. It will be important for the sprinters to stay well protected in order to not waste any energy before the final.

The run-in towards Amiens is quite easy. From Fouilloy, it’s straight-out almost all the way until the last couple of kilometers. A few roundabouts is all the riders have to overcome. With about 3.5 km to go, the road starts to rise for about 500 meters. Afterwards, it’s slightly downhill towards a sharp 90° left-hand turn. The riders then continue straight-out on Boulevard de Beauville. They pass under la flamme rouge after crossing the river. With about 600 meters to go, the road bends to the right, taking the riders on to the final 450 meters, which are straight-out towards the finishing line.

As the last 3 km are very fast and include a sharp turn, it’s important to be well-placed already at this point. It’s a headwind sprint, meaning it’s crucial not to open too early. The ideal scenario would be to enter the last bend with two riders in front of you. This would allow you to wait until the last 150 meters to launch your sprint, minimizing the risk of running out of legs on the final meters in the headwind.

C-Cycling.com Tour de France 2015 Preview and Favorites

The favorites
Etixx Quickstep and Tony Martin played their cards perfectly on stage 4, taking the stage win and the yellow jersey. It’s incredible how fast the tables can turn. The morale is now sky high on the team and furthermore, they have the number one favorite for today’s stage in Mark Cavendish. Even though the Manxman faded at the end of stage 2, it doesn’t mean he’s not on top of his game. Mark Renshaw simply delivered him way too early in the headwind sprint. Today, Renshaw will get a chance to make up for the mistake. Together with Matteo Trentin, Michal Kwiatkowski and Martin in the yellow jersey, Cavendish couldn’t ask for a better leadout. The finish suits him well and if he can time his sprint perfectly this time, he will be close to impossible to beat. It’s also worth noting that Etixx Quickstep has the best team in the peloton for the crosswind sections. They could easily eliminate much of the competition if the wind is strong enough.

Andre Greipel won the psychological fight on stage 2. For the sprinters, it’s extremely important to start out with a win to boost your confidence. Greipel did well on the cobblestones, working for his teammates. He’s clearly in great shape. Lotto-Soudal has a strong team for the sprints but unfortunately for Greipel, his most important leadout rider, Greg Henderson, went down hard in the big crash on stage 3. This means it’s up to Marcel Sieberg to deliver his fellow countryman in the sprint. It has worked out well in the past but it requires excellent timing. Greipel is not great at boxing for positions when it gets hectic on the final kilometers.

Personally, I believe Nacer Bouhanni has a fair chance of winning this stage. He was great in the crosswinds on stage 2 but suffered a crash, which ruined his chances. On the cobblestones, Bouhanni also did surprisingly well, finishing 6th on the stage. The fast Frenchman is very good at timing his efforts in the sprints. In a headwind sprint, it’s important not to hit the front too early. Bouhanni is very fast on the final meters. He’s good at jumping from wheel to wheel and he knows exactly when to launch his sprint. In Julien Simon and Geoffrey Soupe he has two good leadout riders for the final kilometer. If he can avoid bad luck, Bouhanni will definitely give Cavendish a good run for the money in Amiens.

The outsiders
An ill-timed puncture ruined Alexander Kristoff’s chances of success on stage 5. He finished in the group together with Greipel, nearly three and a half minutes behind Martin. So far, Kristoff hasn’t had a good Tour. He arrived with big ambitions of stage wins and the green jersey. The latter seems to be gone but there are still good stages for him left in the race. Today’s fast finish suits him well. Especially, if he can enter the last bend with Luca Paolini and Jacopo Guarnieri in front of him.

John Degenkolb and Peter Sagan finished 2nd and 3rd behind Martin on stage 4. Both riders will have a chance to take revenge today but neither can match the top speed of the pure sprinters in a flat sprint. Giant-Alpecin will be able to provide a great leadout for Degenkolb, while Sagan is on his own after making sure Alberto Contador is out of problems. Both Degenkolb and Sagan are aiming at the green jersey so they can’t afford not to take part in this sprint. It will be very difficult to win but they should be able to fight for top3.

For other strong outsiders look to the MTN Qhubeka duo of Tylar Farrar and Edvald Boasson Hagen together with Davide Cimolai, Sam Bennett and the two fast French sprinters Bryan Coquard and Arnaud Démare.

For live coverage of the stage, go to steephill.tv.

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