08 July 2015

Stage 5 TDF: Memorials, Wind and Position

This was a day in France of memorials, wind and position

Memorials

Racing across the land destroyed and rebuilt after WWI and WWII made me realize many of the buildings seen from the helicopter are newer than my own 1925 bungalow in Colorado. Thinking beyond the flat fields and pretty churches to the men who lay in row by row far from their home villages after absolute sacrifice given for their country, sinks in deep. So many grave markers and those were only the ones along the route.

We should remember these men, and we will, from 2014 through 2018. For every year can be considered 100 years after the great war because it was so for each man who fought and died from west to east and north to south across this land. Today riders paid homage with armbands and laying of wreaths. TV announcers spoke of the British and Australian efforts in WWI, but 1,844 American soldiers died in the Battle of Somme, they fought in units attached to the British Army.

Somme American Cemetery in Bony, Aisne, in northern France.
British, French and German military cemeteries on the old 1916 and 1918 battlefields of the Somme (dare to zoom in on the link).

Wind

It would not be Week 1 at the Tour de France without wind, but today's weather did not affect the overall standings or cause too many crashes; the rain caused most of the slip n' slide falls. The wind did add plenty of apparent stress to each rider as tense concentration was required through wind and rain. The peloton also showed us they too - like the rest of us - can go 12 mph around a corner.

Position

It was pure animal posturing and primal protection that brought the lead GC teams to the front in an attempt to protect their GC man in the final kilometers of today's stage. The teams present in the front at 50 kilometers offered a clear and loud proclamation of we have a man who can win this thing, this is our turf. If your team wasn't at the front, you can cease all those pre-stage on the bus talks about getting your GC guy to the front (at least for several more stages), for you will appear as awkward as the kid on the schoolyard asking "hi, can I play too?"

At 44.5 km to go the big teams lined up (left to right): Sky, Etixx-Quickstep, Movistar, Tinkoff, BMC and Astana. With a timid team Orica-GreenEdge asking if they could play too.  "No" was the answer, but their teammate did get the Combative Jersey award for the day ... and Lanterne Rouge -- an odd combination.

The 6 BIG teams of the 2015 Tour de France staking their territory at the front. (I watch NBC sports)
 
Position was not everything when it came to the final sprint of the day because Greipel came from 5th position in the pack and Sagan from 8th position in the last meters to take 1st and 2nd respectively. Watch them closely in this replay Last Km of Stage 5 (01:41 English)nbcsports (via Steephill.TV). That is why they get paid the big bucks.

 
Cavendish (left), Greipel (center), Sagan (right) - they really are the dream sprinter's podium at this Tour.  Photo from Lotto Soudal Cycling Team Fanpage

Stage 5 Results

Stage 5 Win
1André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal4:39:00
2Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo
3Mark Cavendish (GBr) Etixx - Quick-Step

GC Standings after Stage 5
1Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx - Quick-Step17:19:26
2Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky0:00:12
3Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team0:00:25
4Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo0:00:33
5Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal0:00:38
6Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team0:00:40
7Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx - Quick-Step0:00:46
8Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo0:00:48
9Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky0:01:15
10Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step0:01:16

Classifications
  • Yellow Jersey: Tony Martin
  • Green Jersey: Andre Greipel
  • Polka-dot Jersey: Joaquim Rodriguez
  • White Jersey: Peter Sagan
  • Combative: Michael Matthews (because he would not give up)
  • Best Team: BMC
  • Lanterne Rouge: Michael Matthews
  • 189 riders remain of 198 starters

Stage 6 - Abbeville to Le Havre

They claim this be to another Sprinter's stage with 50 bonus points waiting at the finish. Greipel is ahead of Sagan by only 32 points for the Green Jersey. Degenkolb and Cavendish will also be hunting for points tomorrow, Sagan will want them to use up those points rather than having them drop into Greipel's pot. The final meters to the finish in Le Havre are straight (good for Greipel, but with the uphill no) and slightly undulating at a whopping 75 meters above sea level (Cav is the great equalizer of hills and straights). But with Sagan's noticeable speed in reserve to the line today and his lighter frame over the ups and downs of the middle kilometers of tomorrow's stage - I'm going with Sagan for the stage win.

There will be three official Category 4 climbs tomorrow: max grade 4 to 7%, all less then 2 kilometers long. But points will be points, so the polka-dot might change hands. The yellow might too; I doubt the white will.

Stage 6  will be a hard day for the domestiques, team cars and race radios - at times it'll be hard to see what is going on up the road around corners and hills. The most important thing will be keeping track of your team between the first and fourth KOM points and reforming before the final sprint, there will be gaps.

We'll get a bit of ocean views tomorrow, so don't only tune in to see coverage of the final 10K. If you do miss the earlier parts of the stage, then go directly to @JeredGruber photography, because he and his wife Ashley are now part of the official (very deserved) photographers for Le Tour. They get amazing shots beyond the six square meter bubble surrounding Tony Martin and Chris Froome. You may see many of their images on Le Tour Facebook page under Photos marked as © Gruber Images.

Approximate Stage 6 Finish: 17:22 CET (11:22 EDT, 9:22AM MDT)

Stage 6 Route Map

Stage 6 Route Map 2015 Tour de France
Stage 6 Profile Map

Stage 6 Profile Map 2015 Tour de France

This is the expression of two fractured ribs while receiving the Combative (most aggressive) award for the day while being the Lanterne Rouge. Really Michael Matthews just wanted someone else to hold that heavy plexi-glass thing.

Michael Matthews of team Orica-GreenEDGE. Photo via Orica GreenEdge Cycling Facebook Page