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Jul 09 2014

Le Tour 2014: Stage 5, Ypres / Arenberg Porte du Hainaut

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

So first day in France and not only more sprinters, but the same guy won for the 3rd time out of 4 stages.  The day started without Andy Scheck who had ligament damage in a crash just outside of London in Stage 3 and had to withdraw.  It soon claimed Chris Froome, one of the favorites in the General Classification.  Thomas Voeckler staged a breakaway to claim the Sprint checkpoint but he was caught up 16 km from the finish.  Shortly after the 30 km mark from the end of the stage Lotto had a crash that involved 3 of their own riders forcing one of them, Greg Henderson to withdraw and severely hurting the team’s chances as he was considered the primary setup man for André Greipel.

About 15 km from the line Peter Sagan had a fall that dropped him all the way to the back of the field.  He staged an amazing comeback though to finish 4th.  Giant-Shimano delivered the victory to Marcel Kittel but in a far less convincing fashion than in the previous stage as Katusha made a strong challenge.

Top Stage finishers in Lille were Marcel Kittel, Alexander Kristoff, and Arnaud Demare with Peter Sagan in a miracle 4th.  All of the top 98 finishers were awarded the same time as Kittel.  In the General Classification Vincenzo Nibali continues to lead with 20 riders 2 seconds behind.  Top points awards for the stage were Thomas Voeckler with 20, Luis Angel Mate Mardones 17, and Peter Sagan with 15.  15 Riders scored points in the Sprint competition.  The overall point leader is Peter Sagan with 158, Marcel Kittel 135, and Brian Coquard 121.  Their nearest competition is 39 points behind.  There were 2 category 4 climbs yesterday  but Cyril Lemoine still leads with 6, Blel Kadri has 5, and Jens Voigt and Nicolas Edet are in a 2 way tie for 3rd with 4 each.  In Team results there were no changes with Sky, Astana (-00:12), and BMC (-00:14) are in front with only NetApp-Endura and Trek within a minute of the leaders.  No changes in the Youth championship either with Peter Sagan, Roman Bardet, and Michal Kwiatkowski still in a 3 way tie for the lead.

Today’s stage is the dreaded cobbles of Belgium which even when dry produce severe vibrations that can force injured riders, especially those with upper body injuries (like Chris Froome, left wrist), to withdraw in the best of times.  They can also produce punctures and other equipment failures that can take riders out of contention, at least temporarily.  When damp they are very slippery and nearly always cause crashes of greater or lesser consequence.  There will be 9 sections of cobbles.  Many riders won’t use this section to win and will merely be seeking to survive without too much damage, but it’s not impossible that we will see as many changes in the standings as we would if this were a Mountain stage.  The stage is 97 miles long and relatively flat with no rated climbs.  The 9 cobble sections start after the halfway mark with only the first coming before the intermediate Sprint line.

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