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Tour de France 2009: Stage 5


Hello and welcome back to the 96th Tour de France. After 196.5 km today, we expect yet another sprint finish.

Today's stage takes us from Le Cap d'Agde on the Mediterranean coast inland, west and south. We come back to the coast at km 133, and follow it down for 40 km. We can really expect some wind along here. Then the route turns inland, makes a u-turn and heads north to the finish in Perpignan.

Cyclingnews' Hedwig Kröner is at the start today, and tells us there are lots and lots of people there. It is great to have so many fans there, but there is just one little problem – the traffic. Ok, so it wasn't such a little problem. She says the Cyclingnews car got caught in a traffic jam at a roundabout and had to wait some 15 minutes.

Who else was caught in that traffic back up? The Garmin-Slipstream team bus, for one. They were so late, the bus didn't even go the team bus parking area, but pulled up right to the sign-in podium to let the guys out. They only made it about 10 minutes before the race was to start.

Kröner talked to Quick Step's Sylvain Chavanel about the weather and the stage. It is already 27° Celsius at the start with lots of wind. They expect to have backwind virtually the whole way, until they make that little u-turn near the end. Then they will have headwind, what fun.

The peloton has met its first challenge of the day: a closed railroad crossing. They sat and waited some three minutes.

Shortly after that a Lampre rider tried to get away, but was caught again. Right now, with 8 km to go, four riders have jumped out. Let's see if they can get something going.

We are down to 178 riders in the Tour. One of yesterday's crash victims was Skil's Piet Rooijakkers, who suffered multiple fractures.

Rooijakkers will be out up to three months, his team has reported. He suffered a triple fracture to his left arm, a broken finger and contusions to his head and left shoulder, and has already undergone surgery. Read about it here:

176km remaining from 196km

173km remaining from 196km

And the gap just keeps getting bigger and bigger, up to 2:45 now.

Andy Schleck has joined the Twitter generation. He also talks about the Tour de France, Fabian Cancellara and the team time trial course in his blog on Cyclingnews:

167km remaining from 196km

165km remaining from 196km

Der Wind, der Wind, das himmlisches Kind – that's a german saying about the wind (“the heavenly child”). No doubt the riders would call it another name. There ought to be a lot of wind again today, especially on that coastal section. Will we see the peloton break up into pieces again? Probably? Do the top riders want to be caught in the wrong group again? Absolutely not! So there may well be a lot of jostling as some 180 riders all try to be at the front of the peloton.

Cadel Evans lost 2:36 minutes in yesterday's team time trial, which of course didn't make him happy. His Silence-Lotto team was struck by crashes, as were so many. Read more about it here:

159km remaining from 196km

157km remaining from 196km

Here's some happy news. Nicolas Portal of Cofidis became a daddy yesterday, as his wife had a son. Portal isn't riding the Tour, so he can be with mother and child. Congratulations to the family!

The wind today is not the Mistral of earlier in the week, but the Tramontane, a typical gale coming from the Pyrenees. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and a wind by any name will blow just as hard.

How would you like to have your very own copy of Fallen Angel by William Fotheringham? Here is your chance. Just answer a simple trivcia question and the book is yours.

149km remaining from 196km


The wind is really the number one topic of discussion. “It might be calm and so just a boring roll to Perpignan or it might be all out warfare in the wind,” Jonathan Vaughters told Cyclingnews.

144km remaining from 196km

No surprise as to who Vaughters thinks will win the mass sprint today. “I think this day is for Tyler Farrar.”

138km remaining from 196km

Cap d'Agde is the start town for today's stage and is apparently the world's nudism capital. According to some travel guides, "this coastal town features a nudist resort with a three-mile beach, as well as its own doctors, banks, shopping and dining, just for the nudists";

Let's get physical with the field of this year's Tour de France:

Tallest rider - Katusha's Stijn Vandenbergh is a lofty 199cm, more suited to basketball than a bicycle, although he's very competent on the latter. Silence-Lotto's Johan Van Summeren also nudges two metres, at 197cm, while Vandenbergh's teammate Vladimir Karpets is 194cm.

Heaviest and lightest rider - weight can be a sensitive subject for cyclists, although the facts are the facts, aren't they? Anyway, the heaviest rider at this year's Tour is Cofidis rider Rein Taaramae, at 90kg. He stretches this over 188cm, so there's a lot of room to spread that weight. The lightest rider is Caisse d'Epargne's punchy little Colombian, Rigoberto Uran, who weighs in at a tiny 54kg!

126km remaining from 196km

123km remaining from 196km

Today's course isn't totally flat. It is slightly rolling up until two Category four climbs at km. 112 and km.115. But once they come down from those and hit the coast, it is just as flat as it can be.

Who will win the sprint today? Is anyone really willing to bet against Columbia's Mark Cavendish? The young Manxman has good chances to go for this third win in only five stages.


This doesn't look like it will be a long-lived break. The gap is down to 3:29.

World Champ Alessandro Ballan had a hard time of it yesterday. So did his team.  More here:

Mechanical for Andy Schleck. A new front tire and he is on his way again.

Since this is a sprint stage, we wish to pay tribute to one of the Tour's great sprinters, Erik Zabel. Riding for Telekom/T-Mobile, he won the green jersey six consecutive years, from 1996 to 2001, taking 12 stages along the way.

87km remaining from 196km

Time for our daily look at who is wearing what jersey. Fabian Cancellara is wearing the yellow jersey as overall lead, with an absolutely miniscule lead over second-placed Lance Armstrong.

Mark Cavendish continues to lead the points classification with 70 points, ahead of Thor Hushovd with 54 points.

“The Tour is difficult with Columbia, they are dominating,” said three-time world champion Oscar Freire (Rabobank). “You have to try day after day, I know that one day I will get a win. Like last year, I finally got a win.”

99km remaining from 196km

Jussi Verikkanen is still wearing the mountain climber's polka dots, leading with 9 points ahead of Tony Martin and Koen de Kort, both with six points.

Klöden drops back to the Astana team car to have adjustments made to his bike.

Cavendish moves up to the front of the peloton, all in green.

Someone isn't paying attention back there in the peloton.  The gap is creeping up again, and is at 4:17.

“I am proud, proud of the team and myself,” said Saxo Bank's Fabian Cancellara. “I am happy to be in yellow at the Tour. I now have the most days in yellow for a Swiss rider.

Astana is showing up near the front of the peloton. No doubt all the favourites are thinking of what happened in stage three and are determined not to be caught on the wrong side if there is another break in the peloton.

Scheirlinckx of Lotto and Auge of Cofidis have gone down. Both are back up and going again, though.

Another crash, with Matthew Lloyd of Silence-Lotto and Bernhard Eisel involved. Lloyd is slow to get his bike back in working order.

85km remaining from 196km

The first climb comes at km 112.5, the Col de Feuilla. It is a 4 km ride up with an average gradient of 3.3%.

Geslin and Ignatiev sprinted for the mountain points and took them in that order. Having built up a small lead, they have decided to hold on to it.

No one particular team leading the peloton now, we see Caisse d'Epargne, Astana and others at the front.

80km remaining from 196km

Voeckler and Geslin cross the line at the second climb pretty much at the same time, and have a lively discussion about it.

Geslin, Voeckler, Timmer -- that is how the day's final mountain points are awarded.

The finish town for today's stage is Perpignan, which isn't far from the Spanish border. Dwarfed somewhat by its big sister, Barcelona, the Catalan influence is obvious throughout the city thanks to the architecture, way of life and names of monuments in the city. This can be seen in the finish location for the stage, Place de Catalogne.

Rabobank's Robert Gesink is the next to go down. He is up and going, but seems to have injured his left hand.

Two Rabobank teammates have fallen back to help Gesink. He is still doing a bit of one-handed riding.

The gap is back up to 4:09. The course now runs directly to the sea, where it turns south. At that point we can start expecting to feel some strong wind.

Perpignan has a rich Tour de France history, although the last finish there was in 1997, when Laurent Desbiens won after Sergei Outschakov was disqualified for dangerous riding in the sprint.

Cancellara himself is doing the lead work. Astana, Liquigas, Saxo Bank, are all up there.

Gesink and his two helpers are still not back with the peloton. A group of 20 has dropped off the back already.

A large traffic island presents a difficulty. Some riders go to the right, some to the left and some, including Cancellara go right over it.

64km remaining from 196km

Gesink with teammates Posthuma and Niermann are falling frtehr and further back among the team autos. This will probably bury Gesinks's hopes and dreams for this Tour.

Gesink's left leg is now fully smeared with blood. He also shows signs of the fall on arm.

Gesink is basically not using his left hand. To look at his face, you can see his pain and misery.

The peloton has split! Cancellara led the way ov er a bridge, and that was it. Who is there? We see Hushovd, Cavendish, Cancellara.

58km remaining from 196km

Thor Hushovd wants to win today. "I know the region well, as I've lived six years just outside of Perpignan, in Le Boulou," the big Cervelo sprinter said. "I would really like to win the stage."

To add to Rabobank's woes today, Menchov has again missed the cut and is back in the fthird group. As is Kim Kirchen of Columbia.

Anthony Geslin (FdJ), Marcin Sapa (Lampre), Thomas Voeckler (Bbox), Yauheni Hutarovich (FdJ), Mikhael Ignatiev (Katusha) and Albert Timmer (Skil-Shimano)
Cancellara group at 2:17
Menchov group at 2:30
Gesink group at 3:30

Freire, Flecha, Gerdeman are all in the first group. We counted at least 5 Astanas and probably as many Columbias. We see some distinctive Garmin orange, too.

We still have six riders up front, let's not forget them. They have only a 1:34 lead right now. We still don't have an official list of who is is what chasing group.

Anthony Geslin (FdJ), Marcin Sapa (Lampre), Thomas Voeckler (Bbox), Yauheni Hutarovich (FdJ), Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) and Albert Timmer (Skil-Shimano)
Cancellara group at 1:37 (Contador in front group)
Menchov, Pereiro group at 2:03
Gesink group at 2:45

51km remaining from 196km

We have a large group of 100 or so, followed by a smaller group, maybe 20-30, which is 10 seconds back. Will they catch up?

Those two groups have come together. When will the next break come, and who will be in it?

As always, we wonder what we will eat for dinner tonight. Local favourites in Perpignan include mussels in cream sauce or fillet of beef in wine. We can look for lots of sauces with tomatoes or garlic or both.

Niermann has to drop off from his work to being Gesink back up. Gesink and Posthuma aren't up front by any means, either.

48km remaining from 196km

It looks like all the favourites are all together in the lead group.

Boonen just zipped by the doctor's car. What was he doing back there?

For those likely to find themselves in Perpignan, here's a few notable cultural attractions in the city:

Gesink has made it up to the second chase group. Gerald Ciolek is also in that group.

40km remaining from 196km

Mechanical for Niki Sorensen.

39km remaining from 196km

History has Perpignan as a city featured later in the Tour de France. It was in vogue during the 1950s and '60s, although in recent times it has been neglected. Normally the end of a long day in the saddle, today's stage is no exception. It nudges 200km and with the conditions out there, they'll be in the hurt box by day's end.

35km remaining from 196km

35km remaining from 196km

Liquigas moves up to help with the lead work.

Astana has the lead work well in hand. A lot of them are used to this from earlier USPS/Discovery years.

31km remaining from 196km

32km remaining from 196km

Gesink is at the end of the second chase group.

Stage finishes in Perpignan:

The first chase group is quite large, about 90 riders. They have about a minute and a half lead over the group with Moreau, Ciolek, Boonen and Gesink.

25km remaining from 196km

29km remaining from 196km

Milram has taken over lead work of the second chase group. Gesink has fallen back again.

19km remaining from 196km

Again, lots of fans are out lining both sides of this narrow road.

Gesink and Niermann are now nearly two minutes back. Gesink isn't using his left arm at all.

16km remaining from 196km

15km remaining from 196km

14km remaining from 196km

A fan was standing too far out in the road and looking the wrong direction. Fortunately nothing happened, but he or she could have been seriously injured and brought half the field down, too.

12 km and 1:18. Does this little group have a chance to take the win?

Time for the six riders up front to start thinking about what they might do. Can they sprint? Will there be an attack? How much do they have left after this long, long escape?

Columbia doesn't have to do all the work today. After Cervelo and Garmin, now Agritubel has moved up to help with the chase.

The six leaders have a good chance to come through, but it may be close. But a win is a win, even if it is by just one second.

7km remaining from 196km

Skil is mvoing up to the front of the group, too. The gap is oh-so-slowly coming down.

Ignatiev attacks. Timmer goes after him. The Lampre rider can't keep up.

5km remaining from 196km

5km remaining from 196km

Lots of game-playing among the four leaders, who will now presumably be able to take the win. Voeckler takes off, alone.

The other three wait for each other to give chase – never a good idea.

4km remaining from 196km

3km remaining from 196km

Timmer gives chase.

Voeckler looks to have enough of a lead to take this stage.

2km remaining from 196km

2km remaining from 196km

The French fans root wildly for their French rider.

Timmer looks back nervously.

1km remaining from 196km

Voeckler hits the 1km marker. He is 11 seconds ahead of Timmer.

Voeckler looks back, sees nothing, shakes in head unbelievingly and grins.

He enjoys his triumphant ride across the line, and the peloton thunders across the finish line only a few seconds later.

1 Thomas Voeckler (Bbox Bouygues Telecom)
2 Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) at 6"
3 Cavendish
4 Farrar

Voeckler is still shaking ihis head in disbelief.

Well, that stage sure didn't turn out the way everyone predicted!  But it was an exciting one, for sure.  Join us again tomorrow as the Tour heads towards the mountains.

Cancellara keeps yellow....

1 Thomas Voeckler (Bbox Bouygues Telecom)
2 Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) at 6"
3 Mark Cavendish (Columbia-HTC)
4 Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream)
5 Gerald Ciolek (Milram)
6 Danilo Napolitano (Katusha)
7 José Joaquín Rojas (Caisse d'Epargne)
8 Lloyd Mondory (AG2R La Mondiale)
9 Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
10 Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam)

GC after stage five

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