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Tour de France Stage 5 Preview

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July 5, 2016 – Wednesday’s stage 5 of the 103rd Tour de France (#TDF2016) should see the most dramatic and decisive racing of opening week.

#PelotonShorts by John Wilcockson/Photo by Yuzuru Sunada

The last time the Tour came through this northwestern part of the Massif Central in 2011 (this image), there was drama aplenty: separate high-speed crashes on the slick descent of the Pas de Peyrol mountain put Jurgen Van den Broeck, Alexander Vinokourov, Frederik Willems and Dave Zabriskie out of the race with broken bones; a France Télévision vehicle side-swiped riders in the breakaway, sending Johnny Hoogerland into a barbed-wire fence; and the break’s Thomas Voeckler took over the yellow jersey that he’d defend for 10 days.

There’s again going to be a new yellow jersey after Wednesday’s stage 5, which has a far more decisive finale than that dramatic stage five years ago. Current leader Peter Sagan won’t survive the steep climbs, while his Tinkoff team leader Alberto Contador, suffering from his stage 1 injuries, will need all the help he can get to hang with the other GC contenders.

The last hour of the 216-kilometer stage has enough challenges to split the race wide open, starting with the steeper side of the Pas de Peyrol (that has a double-digit grade for the last 2.5 kilometers), 31 kilometers from the finish. Then comes the dangerous 11-kilometer descent through thick woods, but this time on dry roads, before the nasty Col de Perthus, whose grades reach 11 percent at the top, with 15 kilometers to go.

This climb wasn’t “raced” by the peloton in 2011 because it was awaiting stragglers from the Pas de Peyrol crashes. This time, it should see an intense battle, especially as another climb, the Font de Cère, peaks 2.5 kilometers from the finish, followed by a technical, zigzag downhill and a short 6-percent kicker to the line at Le Lioran. // With half the field more than five minutes down on GC, it’s possible that a rider in the break will win the stage, but it’s more likely that riders such as Julian Alaphilippe (or teammate Dan Martin), Simon Gerrans or Rui Costa will be fighting for the win—and the yellow jersey.

Follow @pelotonmagazine for more #pelotonshorts from John Wilcockson.
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