Tour de France Diary, Stage Five: Greipel wins two in two days, Evans well placed
With the first week of the 99th Tour de France almost completed, let’s take stock of what we have seen from Australian contender Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) thus far.
The 35-year-old is firmly embedded in the top ten in the general classification – seventh to be precise.
Evans’ favourable position is in part due to a solid performance in the 6.4km prologue time-trial in Liège, where he finished 13th, just 10 seconds shy of arguably his greatest threat Bradley Wiggins (Sky Pro Cycling).
The rest of the praise should be directed at his BMC teammates, who have been nothing short of outstanding in support of last year’s overall winner. Particular mention must go to Marcus Burghardt and George Hincapie.
Team Sky has not looked nearly as impressive riding for Wiggins, who has at times appeared troubled by the pressure of being billed as an overall favourite.
Throughout each road stage, BMC has kept Evans near the front of the peloton – most importantly in the last 20km. This tactic theoretically reduces the risk of his being involved in crashes and being negatively effected by splits. It also limits his losses should he suffer a mechanical.
Last night was no exception as riders travelled 197km from Rouen to Saint-Quentin for stage five of the great race.
Prior to the race start, news of another abandonment filtered through. Plagued by a stomach complaint, German sprint hopeful Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) was forced to withdraw from his first Tour campaign.
A healthy Kittel would have challenged for the stage victory, which was instead taken by Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) – his second in as many days.
Australian Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) was second and is still aiming for a tilt at the green jersey, evident in the large amount of work done by teammate and fellow countryman Stuart O’Grady at the head of the peloton.
The Australian Orica-GreenEDGE team has had a mixed start to their first Tour. Goss has been there and thereabouts in intermediate sprints and sprint finishes, but we are yet to see the best of Simon Gerrans.
Gerrans is down on luck having flown into a barbed-wire fence in an incident on stage three. But keep an eye on the attacking Victorian as the Tour moves into its final two weeks.
For the second consecutive day it was a depleted group contesting the finish, following another crash in the final 3km, this time involving Peter Sagan (Liquigas) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp).
Sagan seems incapable of doing anything wrong at the moment. He even crashes well. Although he went down, he was able to minimise his impact with the tarmac through superb bike handling.
With no categorised climbs on the profile and green jersey combatants keen to pocket more points come stage end, the likelihood of a successful breakaway was microscopic.
The four men in the breakaway – Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ-Big Mat), Pablo Urtasun Perez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Jan Ghyselinck (Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne) and Julien Simon (Saur-Sojasun) – should therefore be commended for their courage.
The unpredictability of the Tour, sponsor interests and my penchant for underdog storylines demand people stop short of calling their efforts a waste of precious energy.
Ladagnous was the first member of the break through the sprint point in Breteuil, which went completely uncontested by Urtasun, Simon and Ghyselinck.
The opposite was true of the main field, as Mark Cavendish (Sky Pro Cycling) claimed fourth ahead of a desperate Goss and a fast-finishing Mark Renshaw (Rabobank).
The peloton almost made a mess of what should have been a straightforward catch, only swallowing up the breakaway in the final 200m.
Tomorrow should be the third successive day for the sprinters, a 208km stage from Epernay to Metz.
Goss will be hoping to go one better than last night, with Greipel – the German Bullet – going for a hat-trick of stage wins.
Tour de France Stage 4 Results
Rider, Team, Points
1. GREIPEL Andre, LOTTO-BELISOL, 04h 41′ 30″
2. GOSS Matthew Harley, ORICA-GREENEDGE, 04h 41′ 30″ + 00′ 00″
3. HAEDO Juan Jose, SAXO BANK-TINKOFF BANK, 04h 41′ 30″ + 00′ 00″
4. CAVENDISH Mark, SKY PRO CYCLING, 04h 41′ 30″ + 00′ 00″
5. DUMOULIN Samuel, COFIDIS, LE CREDIT EN LIGNE, 04h 41′ 30″ + 00′ 00″
6. VEELERS Tom, ARGOS-SHIMANO, 04h 41′ 30″ + 00′ 00″
7. FREIRE Oscar, KATUSHA, 04h 41′ 30″ + 00′ 00″
8. PETACCHI Alessandro, LAMPRE-ISD, 04h 41′ 30″ + 00′ 00″
9. HINAULT Sebastien, AG2R LA MONDIALE, 04h 41′ 30″ + 00′ 00″
10. YOHANN GENE, EUROPCAR, 04h 41′ 30″ + 00′ 00″
Tour de France Points Classification
Rider, Team, Points
1. SAGAN Peter, LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE, 155
2. GOSS Matthew Harley, ORICA-GREENEDGE, 137
3. GREIPEL Andre, LOTTO-BELISOL, 132
4. CAVENDISH Mark, SKY PRO CYCLING, 119
5. PETACCHI Alessandro, LAMPRE-ISD, 91
Tour de France KOM Classification
Rider, Team, Points
1. MORKOV Michael, SAXO BANK-TINKOFF BANK, 9
2. BASSO Ivan, LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE, 2
3. SAGAN Peter, LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE, 2
Tour de France Overall Standings
Rider, Team, Time, Gaps
1. CANCELLARA Fabian, RADIOSHACK-NISSAN, 24h 45’ 32″
2. WIGGINS Bradley, SKY PROCYCLING, 24h 45’ 39″ + 00′ 07″
3. CHAVANEL Sylvain, OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK-STEP, 24h 45’ 39″ + 00′ 07″
4. VAN GARDEREN Tejay, BMC RACING, 24h 45’ 42″ + 00′ 10″
5. BOASSON HAGEN Edvald, SKY PRO CYCLING, 24h 45’ 43″ + 00′ 11″
6. MENCHOV Denis, KATUSHA, 24h 45’ 45″ + 00′ 13″
7. EVANS Cadel, BMC RACING, 24h 45’ 49″ + 00′ 17″
8. NIBALI Vincenzo, LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE, 24h 45’ 50″ + 00′ 18″
9. HESJEDAL Ryder, GARMIN-SHARP, 24h 45’ 50″ + 00′ 18″
10. KLODEN Andreas, RADIOSHACK-NISSAN, 24h 45’ 51″ + 00′ 19″