Bonjour to all you cycling
fans out there - and welcome back in the Cyclingnews blimp hovering over
the course of the 2008 Tour de France stage 5. Today will see the riders tackle
a pretty flat parcours from Cholet to Chateauroux on 323 kilometres. The longest
stage of this year's Grande Boucle will hopefully see the McEwen's and
Cavendish's of this world battle it out against each other in a bunch sprint
finish later today. The fast men missed out on their chances on stage 3 to Nantes
already, so we can be pretty sure they'll do everything they can to reel in
a possible breakaway before getting to the line.
The official start of the fifth stage
was taken at 11.42am. Before that, in the neutral zone, Columbian Mauricio Soler
(Barloworld) went down - not badly, but he might have sustained another blow
at one of his wrists, as we're sorry to announce that the 2007 polkadot jersey
winner abandoned the race after 12 kilometres into today's journey...
He was certainly brave to try and hold on since his crash on stage one, where
he broke a small bone in his right hand. Finally, the pain proved too much of
a strain. We certainly hope to see him back next year!
Shortly before that, at km 11, an
escape group managed to jump away from the bunch. Again, we have French riders
in front: Lilian J
Today, Cyclingnews is giving
away a signed jersey of the 2007 Liquigas team! Just pick today's top three
in the correct order and win! Simply email your prediction to our commentary
inbox (firstname.lastname@example.org). All emails have to be received when the
first rider hits the 20-kilometre to go banner.
72km remaining from 232km
Aha! The sprinter's
teams are already reacting, even though there's still 160 kilometres to go.
The leaders' advantage has started to shrink, right now it is 7'30 minutes.
They sure don't want to make the same mistakes as two days ago...
Christian Vandevelde from the Garmin-Chipotle
team told our reporter Gregor Brown this morning that he was satisfied with
his ride in the time trial yesterday. He finished 8th behind winner Stefan Schumacher
(Gerolsteiner). "I'm happy so far," he said. "I rode a good time trial, I was
well within myself and that bodes well for later. I'm actually quite excited
about the way I felt - it's a good sign for what's to come."
what his team's strategies were with regard to a possible yellow jersey for
David Millar in tomorrow's stage, he said, "Vaughters hasn't told us anything
yet but I'm sure he'll come up with a plan for tomorrow."
Emails are already flooding in for
the Liquigas jersey competition today. Most of our readers choose Robbie McEwen
as a winner, with Thor Hushovd, Mark Cavendish and Erik Zabel following the
Australian Silence-Lotto rider.
Here's another information on the
finish in Chateauroux which might be useful: it is very straight, no bends for
the last 1600 metres. The road is wide, 8.5 metres.
There are two prominent birthdays
to point out today: First, the
88km remaining from 232km
The maximum gain
for Brard, Vogondy and J
Ah... more and more readers now pick
Mark Cavendish as the winner for today. The Manxman is definitely a favourite,
and has a similar sprinting style to Robbie McEwen. He may still be young, but
even McEwen says that he is the fastest in the last 200 metres.
As regards positioning, McEwen still beats Cav in our opinion as the Australian
has more experience jumping to the right wheels, and finally squeezing through
the right opening in the finish. One thing's for sure: these two will be hard
to beat for anyone today, except maybe for... Hushovd?
Gregor Brown also talked to Garmin-Chipotle's
Trent Lowe this morning before the start. "I feel well, I feel fit," the Aussie
said about his state of form. "I'm getting into the groove..."
if he was nervous at the race, he replied, "It was nervous racing in the first
couple of stages. Now, the tension is coming down. Hopefully it won't be as
tense now. Although tomorrow, it's definitely going to be nervous again!"
The leading trio have just passed
the feed zone at km 100.5. A word on the weather today: it's absolutely beautiful.
The sun is out, it's about 22
107km remaining from 232km
As to the intermediate
sprints, the three Frenchmen seem to have no particular objectives. The first
sprint (Argenton-les-Vallees, km 33.5) was taken by J
Robert Hunter from Barloworld, as
well as Oscar Freire (Rabobank) are also being picked to finish within the top
three by our readers. For sure, the triple World champ is a threat when he is
not injured or ill, and the South African is definitely hoping to repeat his
2007 Tour stage win.
Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluw
Another possible top three finisher
today could be Robert F
Back in the peloton, the two German
teams Gerolsteiner and Milram are controlling the pace. Gerolsteiner of course
lives up to its status as Stefan Schumacher wears the maillot jaune since
his astounding win in the time trial yesterday, and Milram are hoping for Erik
Zabel to have a good day today.
125km remaining from 232km
The gap between
the bunch and the three breakaways, which include French champion Nicolas Vogondy,
has dropped under 6 minutes.
Brard is currently riding alone in front,
as his companions have stopped for a natural need...
We just hear that a crash occurred
in the bunch a few kilometres ago, involving amongst others Alejandro Valverde
(Caisse d'Epargne). He was spotted back at the race doctor's car, accompanied
by his team-mates, and seemed to have a problem with his elbow. It didn't seem
to be very serious, though. We'll keep you posted.
The Caisse d'Epargne riders are back
in the first part of the peloton. Everything looks okay; the other riders that
apparently went down did not sustain any serious injuries, either.
The race is moving through beautiful French farming countryside. Skies are perfect.
They're on long, flattish roads passing through some picturesque villages amidst
the fields, where supporters cheer them on.
John Gadret, a climber of team AG2R,
is riding at the very back of the bunch. He was reported to be one of the victims
of the crash earlier. The pace, however, is reasonable right now - he didn't
look like he was suffering.
But as we write this, the bunch is starting
to get more strung out...
135km remaining from 232km
AG2R's Cyril Dessel
punctured. He's stopping to get a new rear wheel and gets a push from his mechanic
to get going again.
People from all over the world are
e-mailing us to win the Liquigas jersey. It's a real flood in the commentator's
inbox! Just to inform those of you who've just tuned in, Cyclingnews
is giving away a signed 2007 Liquigas jersey for the correct pick of today's
top three at the finish in Chateauroux.
Just email your prediction
to our commentary inbox (email@example.com) before the first rider
hits the 20-kilometre to go banner.
By the way, we haven't been
able to identify all the signatures on the jersey, but we are sure to have recognized
Peter Beaumont asked us if there
were any time eliminations applied to the time trials at the Tour de France.
In fact, there are:
As a rule of thumb, the time cut in a time trial
is 25%. With yesterday's winning time of 35'44, it would have been roughly nine
minutes. The last rider was Freddy Bichot, 7'10 behind stage winner Stefan Schumacher.
Riders will roughly know how fast they can go and those are not competing for
the stage or the overall will take it 'easy.' They will ride tempo and stay
in a comfort zone. They still will want a massage in the evening, though...
It is rare that someone gets put hors déelai in a time trial, but it