The mountains have arrived for the Tour de France peloton as the race begins its jaunt through all five of the mountain regions of France. La Planche des Belles Filles gets the honour of the first summit finish of this year's race.
The last two times the race has gone up the Planche des Belles Filles, the time gaps have not been that substantial. However, with weather warming up, and plenty of riders interested in making up time, Dan Martin – 16th overall – believes we could end up with some bigger than usual time gaps at the finish.
"It's a short, explosive climb after a hard day. I think that it will be quite an aggressive day. I think it will be aggressive even for the breakaway, which will make it even harder," the Quick-Step Floors rider said.
"It's warming up a bit so it's going to be a hard stage with a hard finish and with that finish line there is a decent chance that there are going to be some large time gaps, even if there is a decent sized group coming in together.
"I think this year's Tour is all about who has the worst bad day. If you have a really bad day at the Tour then you could lose two or three minutes in one stage."
After four days of racing, the time gaps between the overall contenders are still marginal, with most of the general classification contenders spread over a minute. Dan Martin believes that with so many still within a sniff of the maillot jaune, stage 5 could be a battleground.
"It's going to be a strange day but I think that a lot of people are going to be thinking about the yellow jersey even though some of the time gaps are big. I think that shows that there will be a lot of guys looking for the breakaway. There's some debate as to which guys can go into the breakaway and whether that means taking the yellow jersey. It could become a bit of a stalemate (amongst the overall contenders)."
Martin finished 17th, 1:39 down when the Tour de France scaled La Planche des Belles Filles for the first time in 2012. He didn't race the Tour de France in 2014.
A short, sharp finish such as La Planche des Belles Filles should suit Martin's climbing ability but with little real climbing before they reach the crucial ascent, he doesn't know what how he will perform.
"I'm unsure. I'm normally better when there are three or four climbs in a day," he explained. "A one-off explosive effort, even with my traits, I'm normally good at an explosive effort, but it's normally after 260 kilometres at Liege so that one-off climb is a bit unknown. But, we will see, we'll do our best and if I can be there in the finish then it suits me for the sprint."
Every second counts
In this year's Tour de France, where there are so few major mountain stages, every second could count. Martin learned that last year when he missed out on seventh place by just a few seconds. He gained some time on stage 3 after finding his sprint legs and taking third behind Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb). His efforts earned him a small time bonus, which moved him ahead of most of the GC riders into 16th place at 43 seconds.
"I was surprised actually. The guys were laughing at the photo because there were the sprinters and me in the middle," Martin smiled when asked about his stage 3 exploits.
"Nobody seems to be mentioning me still so I don't want to mention it too much. Ironically, I lost seventh on GC by just six seconds last year and I just got those six seconds the other day.
"I'm very aware from last year about how crucial every second is for positions at the end in Paris. Like I said yesterday morning, it was important to be up front at the end of the stage to make sure that I didn't lose any time, and in the end I made up a few seconds."
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