Paris-Nice stage 3 winner Jonathan Hivert of Direct Energie won the Tour de Finistère in a punchy way, hinting that Peter Sagan will be the hot favourite for stage 5 of the Tour de France following three standard sprints and a team time trial. In Saturday's French Cup race, Romain Bardet was second and Guillaume Martin, showing good form ahead of the Ardennes classics, while BMC duo Richie Porte and Tejay van Garderen enjoyed the pre-Tour de France recon in racing conditions.
Eighth in Quimper, Van Garderen claimed his first top 10 since he finished third overall at the Volta ao Algarve in mid-February. "This result shows that I still have good form," the American told Cyclingnews. "I have a good schedule up ahead with the Tour de Romandie, the Tour of California, the Tour de Suisse and the Tour de France. In every race I line up, I want to be aggressive and give my best. Obviously, the Tour is a big goal but all the races I just mentioned I want to show up there. Today was no exception. It was a recon race and also a race to get some fitness. I'm happy. I usually like the longer climbs, more of a stage race where it's a little calmer. Obviously, I'm never gonna beat those guys who are specialists for this kind of race."
The last 37.6km of the Tour du Finistère will feature again on stage 5 of the Tour de France from Lorient to Quimper on July 11. It includes a lot of ups and downs. "I'm definitely glad I got a chance to see it," Van Garderen added. "It's narrow, technical, punchy, with dangerous sections. Having knowledge of the course is gonna be critical. Definitely, Sagan will be a favourite for stage 5. But I'm gonna go with Greg Van Avermaet."
Duels in uphill finales at the Tour often end up being contested by Sagan and Van Avermaet but Bardet added the name of his compatriot Julian Alaphilippe as they both hail from the Auvergne region.
"I'm happy to have done this race, produced a lot of efforts and put myself back on track for Liège-Bastogne-Liège," Bardet told Cyclingnews. "I had really good feelings during the race. This kind of racing in the French Cup is much more unbridled than in the World Tour. During the race, I was busy focusing on all the attacks going on, I had no time for thinking about the Tour de France.
"It'll be a different style on stage 5 in July but it was important to realize the kind of roads we have to expect at the Tour. It'll make a nervous race for the GC contenders because the risk of splits in the bunch in the finale is very high and there should be a nice punch-up between Sagan and Alaphilippe for the stage victory."
Guillaume Martin (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), third in the race, also expects the Tour de France stage to be quite different from the Tour du Finistère. "It will all depend on the mere wishes of the riders present in the finale," Martin said. "Even in a French Cup race like today, it's been controlled for quite a long time. Everyone was looking at getting a good position and once well positioned, nobody was attacking. Along with Bardet, we launched a first offensive in the last hill preceding the final circuit.
"The difficulty of the finale eventually made a difference, but at the Tour, both scenarios will be possible. It can be all together at the bottom of the uphill finish but the bunch might as well be split into pieces beforehand. It can be a crash-marred stage. It's also an opportunity for a single team to race hard."