The action-packed start to the 2015 Tour de France looks set to continue on stage 5 with rain and wind forecasted for the first all-French stage of the race. While there may be no cobbles, climbs, or finishes in the sea, the peloton will be in for another testing day in the saddle with strong crosswinds on a twisting and turning parcours.
The 189.5km stage rolls out from Arras, the host of stage 6 last year, heading north then briefly heading east before the southerly expedition through the Pas de Calais department to arrive in the Somme at Amiens. While there are no categorised climbs, the twisty-turny roads that are exposed to the winds will ensure that those thinking today is a chance to catch their breath will quickly be caught out.
The Tour continues its tribute to the fallen of World War One, passing Canadian, South African, British and Australian war memorials and mass graves, but there will be little chance of the peloton slowing, allowing riders to pay tribute. 1909 Tour de France champion Francois Faber was believe to have been killed in the village of Mont St Eloi in 1915 which the race passed through today. Along with Octave Lapize and Lucien Petit-Breton, Faber was one of three Tour winners to be killed in the war.
The forecasted weather for the stage is 18 degrees Celsius on the start line with isolated showers, clearing at the finish line where 20-degree temperatures are expected. However, the weather story of the day will be the 30km/h winds forecasted from start to finish - sure to test the 191 nervous riders left in the race.
The crosswinds are unlikely to be as strong as those that blew in from the North Sea on stage 2 although, depending on the angle, they could well be just as ferocious. Of the GC teams, Astana and Tinkoff-Saxo have been the most attentive to the crosswinds while Etixx-Quick Step can always be on hand to put it in the gutter. An endless battle for position at the front could see another mass pile up, à la stage 3, with riders all ready down on GC trying to limit their loses.
A bunch sprint finish looks to be on the cards although the breakaway will chance its arm hoping to get lucky in the crosswinds. but today is day to hide in the wheels whenever the opportunity presents. The green jersey contenders will also be eyeing up the intermediate sprint at kilometre 90.5 in Rancourt.
Andre Greipel’s confidence is high after stage 2 victory and he will be looking to extend his spell in green but will need to overcome a John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) angered after missing out on the win yesterday. Etixx-Quick Step will be looking after the yellow jersey of Tony Martin, simultaneously looking to make to it two wins in two days with Mark Cavendish.
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