The riders book their first date with the mountains this Wednesday, and ain’t she pretty. The 160.5km stage sees the riders ascend La Planche des Belles Filles, the first serious climb of the Tour and the first time the Tour goes over 1000m. Some of the ‘lesser’ GC riders will see this as a chance to get into Yellow, while the ‘bigger’ GC riders will be playing a game of cat and mouse on the 20% slopes.
Starting where we left off on Stage 4, the riders leave Vittel to the east and slowly descend for the first section of the race. Along the way to the first ‘action point’ of the stage at 102.5km (a sprint point in Faucogney), there are a few lumps which the riders will have to navigate. Claudon at 24.5km features a steady climb, while many punchy short climbs are dotted around the Haute-Saone Department. Just after Fougerolles there is a very steep climb up the Cote de Blanzey (uncategorised, but Strava has it with sections in excess of 12%), which will be a warmup before the Côte d’Esmoulières at 107.5km.
The Cat 3 Côte d’Esmoulières is 2.3km at 8% in with gradients nearing 20% at times. While that’s the length of the categorised climb, the climb doesn’t stop at the banner, and the road keeps going uphill until the descent into Servance. After that, only 33km lays between the riders and the summit of La Planche des Belles Filles. The first Cat 1 climb of this year’s race, La Planche des Belles Filles is 5.9km long at an average of 8.5% (the Stava KoMs and QoMs are held by Wout van Aert and good friend Carlee Taylor respectively). However, the road is undulating, with sections of 11%, 13% and a whopping 20% kicker. The road also features 5 switch backs, with the steepest being the final one 500m before the finish at 20%. The mountain goats of the peloton will finally feel at home at the TDF on the slopes of Stage 5.
The weather on La Planche des Belles Filles on Wednesday is expected to be drop dead gorgeous. Clear blue skies, 0% chance of rain, minimal wind and a pleasant 24C. Back closer to sea level, it’s expected to be around 28C through the stage. If yesterday’s weather and chatty peloton was anything to go by, tomorrow’s stage might have the same effect on the riders dropped early. Beautiful weather, and a bunch of people to have a yarn with – a perfect group ride.
The GC Situation
While the carnage into Vittel saw Geraint Thomas go down, as well as the peloton fracturing into many small grupettos, no GC rider lost time due to the 3km rule. None of the GC Contenders were seriously injured in either crash as well.
Top 10 GC Contenders
- Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) – 14:54:25
- Chris Froome (Team Sky) – 12″
- Pierre Latour (AG2R) – 25″
- Emanuel Buchmann (Bora) – 40″
- Simon Yates (Orica) – 45″
- Richie Porte (BMC) – 47″
- Nairo Quintana (Movistar) – 48″
- Rafal Majka (Bora) – 49″
- Romain Bardet (AG2R) – 51″
- Fabio Aru (Astana) – 52″
The stage is isolated from most of the rest of the mountain stages, meaning whoever wins will most likely wear Yellow until Stage 8 at least. Geraint Thomas will be right up there in an attempt to defend his Yellow, and he has a chance of taking the stage (unless Sky has plans to save him for the rest of the Tour). Riders who also don’t have a big chance of wearing yellow into Paris, like Esteban Chaves, Dan Martin and Primoz Roglic will defintely have a dig at taking the stage solo. Even riders from the smaller wildcard teams like Brice Feillu, Lilian Calmejane and Guillaume Martin have a chance of sticking in and taking the stage.
My pick though comes from a rider who has broken all the curses this year, and is on an absolute roll of form. Pierre Rolland took out a similar stage at the Route de Sud just under a month ago, as well as an uphill finish into Canazei at the Giro. Both days he was able to go solo a few kilometers out from the end and hold off the peloton. Tomorrow’s stage is made for that style of attack on the steeper pinches and it’s what Pierre has been successful with in 2017. Cannondale without any realistic GC aspirations would like at least a couple of days in Yellow, and Pierre would be the perfect contender up La Planche des Belles Filles.
~ The Cycling Raven