It can be difficult to communicate the sort of rider Primož Roglič is when it comes to how he wins, at least in the traditional lexicon of cycling. Goal-hanger. Poacher. Jermain Defoe. Javier Hernandez. He rarely unleashes a long-range pile driver, instead remains well placed and only goes beyond when it is going to result in a certain victory. In summary, he definitely would never track back, not even in a game of five-a-side.
Anyway, Stage 5 is already being confirmed for the sprinters, which is somewhat surprising when looking at the concluding kilometres and seeing the likelihood of them spelling ‘DRAMA.’ The day totals 183km from Gap to Privas, yet it is the Côte de Saint Vincent de Barrès at less than 20km from the finish which appears to be tailor made for causing stress. It is a 2.7km long Category 4 climb which averages 4.2%, so a tempting prospect for those looking to apply pressure to both Bennett and Ewan, as well as their supporting ranks.
In combination with the rise from Chomérac to the finish itself, there is a strong chance of a small group of classic style riders and puncheurs working to hold a gap all the way into Privas, especially given the somewhat technical nature of the final kilometres. Conversely, if everything is still together by this point, positioning is going to be key for the main sprinters. Those with a numerical advantage will look to make life tough for their rivals who seek to reach the front, forcing them instead to work hard to go round into the anticipated headwind.
In regards to the prospect of a strong headwind once again, it seems clear that Caleb Ewan is the man to beat, his unique low profile sprinting style an advantageous trademark here compared to the typical powerhouse physiques of his rivals. However, if the pressure does indeed ramp up late on, Ewan lacks teammates and appears far from his best on these moderate climbs when hit at intensity. If he is in the mix once they do hit the finishing straight, then it is probably his stage to lose, yet the concern is that he will have already lost it before he has had a chance to sprint.
The far hardier Sam Bennett was too eager on Stage 3 and opened his sprint way too early into a headwind, which given his sail like posture compared to Ewan, meant he was onto a loser. Blessed with support ideal for today’s finale, the Irishman will no doubt be confident of winning at last and joining the ranks of riders who have won stages at all three grand tours. As is often the case with Bennett, he is likely to be the architect of his own failure, with a well documented eagerness to sprint too early having held him back on cycling’s biggest stages before.
A frustrating watch, Giacomo Nizzolo and his NTT Pro Cycling teammates have looked close to being the best leadout train at times, though do succeed in making costly errors on each occasion.Moving up too early, burning through teammates and losing their main man in the sprint. However, the feeling is that there is a stage win lurking if they can get it all to click. Despite his amazing performances coming into this race, it is clear Nizzolo cannot match the likes of Bennett and Ewan for pure speed, meaning his hopes of winning at Le Tour are days ending with terrain which allows his superior climbing NTT teammates to put them under pressure; which means today. It is an ‘all in’ opportunity, so expect them to be active at the front in the final 20km, turning the screw and hoping to box his faster competitors in.
Cees Bol is an interesting pick, somewhat naive in his showings so far at Le Tour, there is enough about him and the Sunweb ranks supporting to suggest he could catch rivals napping on a day like this. He should survive the anticipated final 20km of racing, and has the raw power to compete with the best, but must correct his positioning errors of his previous efforts thus far.
It was an impressive second place finish on the opening day for current World Champion Mads Pedersen, who should have full command of his Trek-Segafredo team on Stage 5, making life as difficult as possible late in the day in order to improve his chances of winning in the rainbow bands
CCC’s team of individuals might prove fruitful here, as Greg van Avermaet and Matteo Trentin suit the late run into Privas well enough to lure them into action. Whether they ride as a team in support of this fact, we will have to wait and see.
Others who remain a mystery in terms of condition or team orders, yet could feature are; Peter Sagan, Elia Viviani, Sonny Colbrelli, Alexander Kristoff, Wout van Aert and Bryan Coquard.
1st Giacomo Nizzolo 2nd Sam Bennett 3rd Mads Pedersen