Stage 5: Arras -- Amiens, 189.5km
Sanity is the name of the game today. For the first time in this year's Tour de France.
About Amiens and Nearby
Gone, at last, are all trappings of Netherlandish society as we enter the Picardy region of France, founded by Gallic tribes and remaining within one iteration of French society or another throughout recorded history. The Somme region is known more recently for the immense battlefields of WWI as well as the somber memorials that dot the quiet countryside today. As far as I could tell from passing through, it seems very agrarian, but that's just a guess. Amiens is a pretty town featuring bridges over the Somme River and one of the world's most cherished cathedrals, pictured above. Amiens has hosted 11 Tour de France stages, while Arras has three on its record.
AmyBC's food and drink pairings:
Drink: Bezelbuth Beer
This one made me wonder if dessert beer is a thing? Brasserie Grain d’Orge is an artisanal, family owned brewery established in 1898. The location of the brewery was originally chosen for the artesian well, which supplies pure water for brewing today. Belzebuth 13% abv strong golden ale is a relatively new product in their portfolio. It was first released in France in fall of 1997.
Food: Mimolette cheese
I did mention that there would be a lot of cheese, right? The appearance and floral aroma of the rind is the work of tiny mites, specially evolved to cheese. The French call them tiny affineurs for their important role in the aging process. Its electric-orange paste has sweet, caramelized depth and smooth, fudgy finish.
The Tour goes rolling along, or rouleur-ing, across the gentle slopes of the Somme region.
FYI we are still in Paris-Roubaix country, just in reverse and covering the first few hours of that race, the part you don't see on TV. It's a lovely ride, particularly after where the race has come from.
Probably most important would be the shape of the last few kilometers, and they are mercifully straight. Well, not entirely, but there's a single left-hander at maybe 1.5km to go, this after several straight kilometers (and a roundabout), then a gentler right-hander inside the last 500 meters.
It is a city center finish, on a succession of wide boulevards, which should be manageable enough. But! Want to geek out with me on finish line safety? Here's a Google Street View image looking back from the finish area to that last turn.
The turn occurs in a gentle enough sweep, but that road furniture? Hopefully it'll be behind the barriers. Also hopefully that old woman makes it across the street before the race arrives.
As I write this, stage 4 has not yet happened, but I'll take a wild guess that it did nothing to slake the collective thirst of the sprint teams. They will come to Amiens hell-bent on a bunch sprint to a stage finish. There are simply too many teams keen on such stages, and too few scheduled, for this one to be gifted to a breakaway. Given the setup, teams will have the opportunity to line up their sprint trains, and the final few km could be quite interesting, possibly even a bit silly, as every team with an inkling tries to move six of its riders to the front. On wide roads, they'll get there, but only the strongest will hold their spot.
Strictly a matter of survival, depending on how the nip-and-tuck battle between Tony Martin and Chris Froome is progressing by the time the race arrives. Bonuses won't go to either of them, so staying in contact will be about all that matters.
Like I said, this will come to a sprint, and if André Greipel can bag another stage and the 50 points, he might have Peter Sagan back on his heels. Should Mark Cavendish win, then we are looking at a situation where the two are splitting the non-Sagan points, like a third party in an election, and effectively winning the competition for Sagan. That's not to say they should join forces or get one of them to drop out. It's just another oddity of the Tour.
King of the Mountains
No points today.
Sagan will be untested by his jersey rivals on a day where everyone, particularly him, should finish on the same time.
The usual sprint suspects. I'm taking Cavendish to not screw this one up so badly, and with a terrific team that should drop him off at the right moment without worrying about wind, rain, cobbles or brimstone.