So, we're back to sprint stages, with a depleted sprint field this time. It's going to be a scorching day in inland France, with a nervous peloton going into the last couple of kilometres, realising that with every sprint that goes by, their chances for a successful Tour fall and fall.
Profil de l’étape
This stage is as flat as anything faced so far in the race, with the two fourth-category climbs of the Côte de Langres and the Côte de la Colline Sainte-Germaine all the ascent the peloton must face on the way to an inevitable sprint.
AmyBC’s Wine of the Day – Champagne! Colline Jacques Lassaigne Inspire NV
This is a stunner.
Lassaigne is a 4.7-hectare family vineyard located in Montgueux. The vineyards boast prime southeastern exposure and consist entirely of Chardonnay. The Montgueux vineyard sites were originally held for the Montrachet of Champagne and are located near the gates of Troyes—the former capital of Champagne.
The unique path of the Colline Inspirée is that it is vinified and aged entirely in barrel.
Did you know?
Did you know Troyes was nearly made the capital of France? Yes, when the Champagne region it inhabits became royal property, there was a real push to make the city, only one hundred and fifty kilometres from Paris, into the centre of government, for reasons that presumably made sense to the people at the time.
The town was taken by the English, before being recaptured by Joan of Arc during the Hundred Years' War, remaining a huge centre for international commerce after that. Vesoul seems rather boring. I'd love to be corrected by an inhabitant.
What’s at stake?
Staying upright is the only goal for this stage, among everyone who is not fighting for the GC. That's something they might find more difficult than anyone is happy with — the finish in Troyes looks a little dangerous, to say the least.
The red line is where the stage finishes and the blue line is the route the sprinters must take, which looks extremely perilous to me. That roundabout is at maybe one hundred and twenty metres from the line, the narrowing of the road following it seems a bit perilous, not to mention all the road furniture. It is a scary, scary sprint finish, so nerves will be high going into it.
The green jersey is theoretically the only bit of fabric up for grabs on this stage, with Marcel Kittel forty points behind leader Démare. He'd require a stage win to cut the gap dramatically, so Démare is safe in it for another day at least.
Who’s going to win?
The scary-looking finish looks to be the main obstacle in the way of a Kittel win. No matter what happened on stage four, his dominant sprint last Sunday still stands — he's still the definite favourite for this stage, all other things being equal. However, Trentin and Sabatini, two extremely important cogs in Kittel's leadout train, hit the deck on Tuesday. Trentin especially is a worry - he finished twenty-two minutes down on stage five. Kittel is not a sprinter who is accustomed to wheelsurfing, nor is he adept at it when he does, which will give hope to the competition.
That competition comes largely in the form of Arnaud Démare, fired up from his first Tour stage win. He's the bookies' second favourite for this stage, with a dedicated leadout train all of whom have stayed on their bikes and perhaps a better ability to be in the right place at the right time than Kittel. However, the roads between two kilometres and five hundred metres are less good for the Frenchman than the German.
My third favourite for this stage is Nacer Bouhanni, who will feel unjustly treated having been cut across by rival Arnaud Démare. In what may be another messy sprint, the Cofidis rider looks capable of equal speeds to Démare. Positioning will be the key for him. Finally, Dylan Groenewegen got boxed in on the stage to Liège and caught up in the first crash in Vittel. He hasn't hit top speed yet this Tour, so it will be interesting to see what he can manage if he does. My pick for this stage is still Kittel, however. If he gets dropped off in position, he can deal with the last couple of hundred metres.