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Tour Stage 5: The Climbing Begins

The Tour de France enters the Massif Central, just for kicks

Girl at Pas de Peyrol Thierry Zoccolan, Getty

Stage 5: Limoges -- Le Lioran, 216km

The fat approaches the fire... Time for a little climbing.

What’s It About?

This is a long-ish transitional stage, with a completely gratuitous detour into the Massif Central, which is not exactly directly between Utah Beach and the Pyrenees. The Tour could have made a straight, flat line for the mountains, with relaxing (!) sprint stages along the way. But no, they had to go and make trouble. And Wednesday’s stage is the result.

The stage slowly approaches the Massif Central for some 150km before hitting the Cat-2 Pas de Peyrol and Col de Perthus, followed by another cat-3 and an undulating approach to the line. It won’t bring out the fireworks among the top GC favorites, there isn’t enough road for any of the stars to hurt anyone among their rank. But the green jersey race will completely change character, probably, and some pretenders will fall away.

AmyBC’s Food and Wine Pairings

Wine: Navarre Pineau des Charantes Vieux

From FranklyWines: Limoges is near Angouleme which is not far from Cognac... so how about a pineau de charantes?? I don't think I've managed to sneak one of these in yet, but they are divine! Grape juice that's fortified with Cognac. The regular ones can be pretty sweet and simple, but I carry the PM Spirits ones which are aged and insanely good. There's his "regular" which is aged for a bit. And then the Vieux which is aged for even long - and spectacular! You can drink them neat, or be really decadent and make a spritzer with rocks and a bit of sparkling water.

Food: Cantal Cheese

Cantal AOC is one of the oldest cheeses in France dating to the times of the Gaul’s rule. It received an Appellation d'Origine (AOC) status from the administrative region of Cantal in the Auvergne region in 1956. This has ensured that the semi-hard, uncooked, pressed cheese has the features and characteristics attributable to the area of origin.

Course Features

Here are several:

Stage 5 Tour map
Stage 5 Tour profile

and the final kms:

Stage 5 final km

The big attractions are the Pas de Peyrol, the highest road in the region, and the Col de Perthus. The latter might be more effective, coming later, but the Peyrol has a storied Tour history to some extent, with nine previous appearances, even as a cat-1 at one point. Hugging the slopes of the Puy Mary volcano, the Pass reaches 1589 meters. From Will’s mountains preview, this is the 22nd-ranked climb of the Tour, and features 5.4km of ascent at a thigh-straining 8.1%. The Col de Perthus is a bit shorter at 4.4km and ever so slightly less awful at 7.9% gradient, and with almost 30km remaining in the stage it probably won’t produce GC-affecting gaps.

Finally, there’s a stage finish to suss out. Here you have the Col de Font de Cere, another 3.3km at 5.8%, for the stage hunters to launch their plans. Again, probably not the top guys, but to be safe they’ll surely be following closely along. The line is slightly uphill in the last km too, after descending the Font de Cere.

Riders to Watch

Apart from the GC stars, you are likely to see a unique breakaway of climbers and non-climbers struggling together. There is a long list of people whose GC hopes have gone away, accidentally or on purpose, and a selection of those guys will show up. The Fortuneo and Direct Energie teams will be sure to staff the break. Then you have the KOM guys, which so far consists of Jasper Stuyven (not really a climber) and Paul Voss, so while they might sniff out more points, chances are a more serious puncheur will show up to steal their thunder.

Next you have a man who is a category unto himself, Peter Sagan. The current maillot jaune presents no long-term threat to Froome and co., but presents a deadly threat to the other points contenders, and this will be the day he drives home the point. Even the intermediate sprint comes after a cat-3 climb, so he’s likely to make some headway there (he already leads Mark Cavendish by five points), and might go all the way to the finish, though of course almost nobody will be interested in towing him to the line for a sprint. Sagan could play hero on this stage, crush the green and yellow, and just coast around France for a while enjoying his temporary (yellow) and permanent (green) statuses (stati?).

Should he falter, there are a number of riders who will go hunting for yellow. Certainly on a stage like this, there will be gains to make in Sagan’s absence, and riders from Julian Alaphilippe to Pierre Rolland, Simon Gerrans, Dan Martin, and other lurking puncheurs would have a precious chance to take the race lead. It should be unpredictable, and anything but dull.

Pick to Win

Michael Albasini. Nobody will care to chase down a break that he’s in. And he’s more than clever enough to do in anyone who goes with him at the end.