Tomorrow's stage 6 of the Tour de France runs from Éparney to Metz over mostly flat terrain. This stage is the last chance for the sprinters this week. On Saturday, the Tour heads to the hills for the first uphill finish of the race. Certainly, there will be no fun for the sprinters there.
There is one categorized climb on the menu tomorrow, the Côte de Bruxières, but it shouldn't cause anyone a great deal of trouble. The sprinters get a warm-up for the finish after 135 kilometers of racing with an intermediate sprint at Saint-Mihiel. A couple of uncategorized climbs in the run-in to the finish may entice the attackers into imprudence, but really, there's little here to stop the sprinters from having their day.
Today André Greipel scored his second straight stage victory and the third Tour win of his career. Greipel's lead-out train has ridden a stellar race this week with Greg Henderson playing the key role of last rider. During today's sprint, Matthew Goss started his sprint first, and inadvertently gave Greipel a perfect ride to the line. Cavendish, sitting on the wheel of Greipel, simply could not come around the burly German. The finish was a long, false-flat climb to the line, which slowed the sprint and complicated the timing. Greipel played it perfectly.
Yet another crash took Tyler Farrar out of the sprint, and reportedly he was thoroughly steamed at the finish. Farrar headed to hospital for x-rays. Despite his much-admired talent, Sagan could not avoid the ghost bike that came flying through the field and he, too, hit the pavement.
Tomorrow, the race runs along a straight road until the three kilometer to go mark. Then, the fun begins. The finishing 2000 meters look like a spilled spaghetti bowl, more normally a feature of the Giro d'Italia. There's a hairpin, half a roundabout, and two 90-degree turns within the final two kilometers. May fortune favor the foolish.
During today's stage, Team Sky seemed to have a train for Cavendish, but mostly it was Lotto who set up the sprint as they have each day this week. Look for more of the same, though maybe not the same winner, tomorrow. Matthew Goss, there's a rider who keeps coming close in these sprints. One of these days, he'll get his.