It has taken less than a week for this year’s Tour de France to reach the first summit finish of the race, setting the riders on a course to battle it out atop the familiar slopes of La Planche des Belles Filles. Stage 5 is an 160.5km route from yesterday’s finish at Vittel, finally providing a day in the saddle under 200km, though finishing atop the Category 1 ascent of La Planche des Belles Filles. A simple enough start to the day’s action, the tension is expected to begin building with around a third of the stage left to race, as the peloton are able to test their climbing legs upon the Category 3 Côte d’Esmoulières (2.3 km avg 8%). The climb to the finish line is a much tougher prospect however, lasting for 5.9km at and an average gradient of 8.5%, though does feature a brief section of 20%. A real opportunity to put down a marker for the following two weeks of racing, expect the general classification riders to begin testing the waters of Le Tour de France.
Thibaut Pinot is aware that his hopes of an overall win at his home grand tour is unlikely, thus shall be on the hunt for stage victories when possible, making him an expected antagonist during the decisive moments on Stage 5. The Frenchman will need to ride particularly clever to avoid running on empty as the yellow jersey favourites start attacking one another, but if he can position himself well on the steepest sections, then he has the power to accelerate hard over the summit into the finish.
Richie Porte has entered the race in eye-catching form, fully aware of how this could prove to be his greatest opportunity to take a grand tour victory in his career and will not hesitate to begin gaining time on his rivals. Often seen to make the top climbers in the world suffer as a result of his efforts on climbs, he has spent a great deal of his time working for others at major races, but will finally have the chance to attack for his own glory.
Fabio Aru will be eager to showcase his form after having to miss out on this year’s Giro d’Italia and suits this finale well enough to mark him out as a real danger to those with eyes set on the stage victory. A fan of tough gradients, it would be no surprise to see the recently crowned Italian road race champion attack on the steepest inclines of 20%, hoping to look back and see his rivals cave in as a result.
Chris Froome might not be able to gain a great deal of time on today’s stage, but he ticks all the boxes required of a rider capable of emerging victorious at the end of the 160.5km journey to La Planche des Belles Filles. Question marks have been hanging over him in regards to his form heading into the season’s biggest race, though the limited insight we have gained from him riding thus far at Le Tour, does suggest that he is certainly on the ball once again.
Dan Martin surprised himself with a podium place on Stage 3 and will have taken even greater confidence into today’s contest as a result of his impressive showing in the opening week of racing. The Irishman has admitted to making poor tactical decisions at major races and shall be aiming to succeed in benefiting from the tactics of those wishing to focus more on who will have the yellow jersey at the end of the three weeks. Likely to be afforded a greater degree of freedom than other favourites today, Martin could push clear on the steeper slopes and find himself without rivals to worry about as he approaches the line.
Other riders who should perform well are Esteban Chaves, Rigoberto Uran, Jakob Fuglsang, Alberto Contador and Rafal Majka.
1st Thibaut Pinot 2nd Richie Porte 3rd Chris Froome