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Tour de France 2012: Stage 5

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Another sprint showdown is expected in this fifth stage of the Tour de France.

Today the peloton will tackle 196.5 relatively flat kilometers from Rouen to Saint-Quentin. There is not a single ranked climb to be seen, so we expect the usual breakaway followed by a mass sprint.

As far as we know, all 195 riders were at the start today. They should be having the sharp start any moment now.

You can check out our preview of the stage, along with Chris Boardman's video comments here.

The sharp start came at 12:46 -- one minute late --  and almost immediately three riders jumped. But they were soon caught.

193km remaining from 196km

But just like that, a group has formed and built up a 1:35 gap: Mathieu Ladagnous (FDJ), Pablo Urtasun (EUS), Jan Ghyselinck (COF) and Julien Simon (SAU).

Today's weather forecast: Dry at the start, showers off and all afternoon, but clearing up in time for the finish.

The biggest news of the day, of course, is that George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde, David Zabriskie and Jonathan Vaughters may or may not have agreed to testify against Lance Armstrong and may or may not face six-month bans themselves.

Vaughters denies the suspensions, at any rate, for his riders.

186km remaining from 196km

We have gone 10km now, and have a 2:35 gap.

Wow, let's make that 4:45 now!

We are very sorry to announce the death of Rob Goris of Accent Jobs-Willems Veranda's last night, from a heart attack.

Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) got caught behind the crash, but thanks to the 3 km rule, which is in place just because of things like this, held on to the overall lead.

    Result
1     Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan     20:04:02      
2     Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling     0:00:07      
3     Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quickstep            
4     Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team     0:00:10      
5     Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling     0:00:11      
6     Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team     0:00:13      
7     Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team     0:00:17      
8     Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale     0:00:18      
9     Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Sharp            
10     Andreas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan     0:00:19

And Peter Sagan of Liquigas used a fifth place finish to increase his lead in the race for the green jersey/point ranking.

1     Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale     147      pts
2     Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team     92      
3     André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol Team     87      
4     Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky Procycling     86      
5     Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling     81      
6     Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan     74      
7     Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre - ISD     71      
8     Tom Veelers (Ned) Argos-Shimano     56      
9     Mark Renshaw (Aus) Rabobank Cycling Team     46      
10     Michael Morkov (Den) Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank     40      
 

171km remaining from 196km

Lotto Belisol has jumped into the lead work and brought the gap down to 4:15. They want to make sure that Andre Greipel has a good chance to take his second straight stage win.


Saxo Bank-Tinkoff's Michael Morkov was not in the break group yesterday, for a change, but still easily held on to the polka dot jersey in the mountain classification.

1     Michael Morkov (Den) Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank     9      pts
2     Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale     2      
3     Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale     2      
4     David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne     2      
5     Anthony Delaplace (Fra) Saur - Sojasun     2      
6     Pablo Urtasun Perez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi     1      
7     Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack-Nissan     1      
8     Sébastien Minard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale     1

Young rider? The best one is Tejay Van Garderen (BMC), who has the narrowest of leads over Edvald Boasson Hagen of Sky.

1     Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team     20:04:12      
2     Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling     0:00:01      
3     Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne     0:00:12      
4     Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale     0:00:13      
5     Wouter Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team     0:00:14      
6     Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat     0:00:37      
7     Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team     0:00:43      
8     Rafael Valls Ferri (Spa) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team     0:00:51      
9     Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack-Nissan     0:01:28      
10     Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi     0:02:30      
 

Tony Martin (OPQS) and Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) are once again together at the rear of the field. We suspect that they are becoming best of friends at this point, and sharing broken-hand-bone tips.

And Sky will be sporting those yellow helmets again today, as the best team.

1     Sky Procycling     60:12:40      
2     RadioShack-Nissan     0:00:04      
3     BMC Racing Team     0:00:06      
4     Omega Pharma-Quickstep     0:00:13      
5     Liquigas-Cannondale     0:00:29      
6     Katusha Team     0:00:38      
7     Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team     0:00:50      
8     Astana Pro Team     0:00:52      
9     Rabobank Cycling Team     0:01:01      
10     Euskaltel - Euskadi     0:01:51      
 

159km remaining from 196km

Evidently the field has decided to let this group go, as the gap is now up to 5.30.

That was quite a crash at the end of yesterday's stage. The most prominent victim was World Champion Mark Cavendish, but the Sky rider was  at the start again today. As was his teammate Bernie Eisel, sporting four stitches in his eyebrow.

Here is some news that is no real surprise: Marcel Kittel of Argos-Shimano has abandoned. The young German had been plagued by gastro-intestinal problems and a bad knee, and it just was too much.

Let's take a look at these four riders in the break group.

Matthieu Ladagnous of FdJ is the highest-ranked rider in the break, at 108th and 8:04 down. There is actually a good possibility that he might slip into “virtual yellow” today. The 27-year-old has spent his whole career with this one team, and this is his third Tour. He is also quite active on the track.

We now have our first live pictures from the race and we see: rain. It is really coming down at the finish, although we understand it is dry for the riders at the moment.

146km remaining from 196km

The gap has dropped slightly and is back down to 4:45.

Urtasun is 32 years old and has been with Euskaltel since 2009. So far this year he has been second in the Vuelta a la Rioja and third overall in the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon.
 

Tyler Farrar's last win was on July 4 in the Tour last year. This year, the Garmin-Sharp rider felt he was in good position to go for a repeat, but he too was one of those caught in the closing crash. Nor was it his first crash of this year's Tour.

Jan Ghyselinck is a 24-year-old Belgian riding for Cofidis. He made his pro debut with HTC-Highroad.

Frenchman Simon, 26, with Saur-Sojasun, has had quite a good season so far. He has won the Tour de Finistere and the Grand Prix de Plumelec-Morbihan, plus two stages at the Volta a Catalunya.
 

136km remaining from 196km

The gap is now at 5:14.

It is probably safe to say that Kenny Van Hummel is not a member of the Mark Cavendish fan club. Why not? Read about it here.

Happy Birthday today to Philippe Gilbert! The Belgian, riding for BMC Racing Team, has turned 30 today.

This has not been his best year, in fact, he doesn't have a single win so far. But how could anyone have expected him to equal 2011, when he won virtually everything?

 

The sun is out now -- for the moment at least.

We have a lone RadioShack-Nissan rider at the head of the field -- we suspect it is Jens Voigt -- followed by what looks like the whole Lotto Belisol team.

And just in case you forgot what all happened yesterday, here some video highlights for you too look it.

Up front, Ladagnous does some stretching, while behind him, Cancellara drops back to the team car.

124km remaining from 196km

The gap is now at 5:12. Still a long ways to go on a fairly easy course, so no one is panicking yet.

We think we can say that the Tour has not so far gone to Matt Goss's satisfaction.  However, he is still second in the hunt for the green jersey, which is his goal  And he is not giving up, although Sagan has a rather large lead already.

Fränk Schleck would of course have liked to have his brother Andy with him at the Tour, but despie that, he is happy enough with the way things have gone so far.

Looking at the GC, we see he is currently 31st, only 38 seconds down.

Lot of wheatfields here in this part of northern France. And chateaus and lovely old churches.

113km remaining from 196km

Stuart O'Grady of Orica-GreenEdge has moved to the head of the peloton, followed by Lotto Belisol.


Who is to blame for yesterday's closing crash, who is injured and what other short but interesting news is there?  Never fear, we have gathered it all for you.

Ghyselinck drops to the team car for a short chat.

Turning things over to Mark for a spell....

Hi everyone, Mark here. Susan's gone for a well-deserved break.

Samuel Sanchez is being attended to by the team car. Looks like a mechanical problem.

105km remaining from 196km

So we have 105km left today. Gap is currently 4:25.

Bernhard Eisel is being checked over by the Sky medical staff. He was involved in that heavy crash at the end of yesterday's stage.

Plenty of youngsters lining the roads with their families here. Great to see.

As we've seen over the last couple of days, this region is full of history. Riders are currently near the Somme, where over a million soldiers lost their lives in World War One.

100km remaining from 196km

Gap is coming down pretty fast at the moment. Now under three-and-a-half minutes.

Pretty spread out in terms of teams at the front of the peloton at the moment. Sky, RadioShack, Liquigas, Europcar, Lotto all there.

Not too far from the intermediate sprint here. The leaders are less than 10km away from it.

Should be a competitive one as the riders who lost potential points in yesterday's finale crash look to recover some ground.

Gap has now fallen below three minutes

90km remaining from 196km

Lots of grey clouds gathering here...

And Susan is back. After, it appears, a delicious bit of cheesecake...

One has no privacy around here... Thanks, Mark, for giving my fingers a short break.

The lead group is at the intermediate sprint and actually just rolls right through it barely noticing. Ladagnous takes the most points, ahead of Urasun and Simon.

1000 meters for the peloton and the sprint trains are forming.

The sprint is on! Cavendish takes it, ahead of Goss and Renshaw.

Increasing the number of points at the intermediate sprints has certainly made them much more interesting. We enjoy seeing the big names sprinting like that in the middle of the stage.

84km remaining from 196km

84km to go and the gap is 2:40.

The peloton has broken up into numerous little groups, we think it is the wind. Plus a number of riders are taking a nature break.

Cavendish looks to be having shoe problems. He has fallen way back. He seems to be trying to fix it himself whilst riding, which makes us nervous.

The gap is back up to just over three minutes. And we see raindrops for the first time.

Levi Leipheimer (OPQS) has also pretty much no-commented the story this morning concerning the USADA investigation.

Greipel has dropped back to the team car, and is getting a new helmet.

77km remaining from 196km

The gap has in fact gone back up to 3:20, but there are still lots of kms to go.

Even out here in the middle of nowhere, there are fans along the road.  Great to see the support.

Bradley Wiggins eats a sandwich but we hope avoids biting the aluminum foil. He is not the only one, as we see a number of bulging cheeks.

Alex Rasmussen has spoken out on his 18 month suspension for whereabouts violations. He has been fired by Garmin-Sharp, and will likely miss the Olympics, although his attorney is trying to find a way around that.

There are still some extremely ominous looking clouds here. But there is also sunshine, and those yellow Sky helmets are certainly catching the light.

It is perhaps hard to believe, but there is another race going on. Jakob Fuglsang was peeved when he was not named to the RadioShack-Nissan Tour team, but instead named to the Tour of Austria. The Dane won yesterday's Queen stage and took the overall lead.

Lotto's Marcel Sieberg is second wheel at the moment. He is easy to pick out, as he 1.98m tall. He is also a close friend and the Tour roommate of Andre Greipel.

59km remaining from 196km

The gap is coming down now agaIn, at 2:37. The field doesn't want to catch them too soon, though. Meanwhile, riders are dropping back to pick up fresh bidons.

Luis Leon Sanchez is at the back of the field. He seems to be looking for the Rabobank team car.

And we see another lovely chateau. Looks like it even has a moat around it, although it is all grass now and no water.

It's a familar picture by now at the head of the field: Orica-GreenEdge, RadioShack-Nissand and then a whole bunch of Lottos.

As we reported earlier, Marcel Kittel of Argos-Shimano had to abandon today. You can read more about his various physical problems here.

We were told it should stay dry from here out, but the road looks damp, and we are sure we saw some drops on the camera lens.

The past becomes the present for Garmin-Sharp and the whole Slipstream organization. Will the USADA investiagation have an effect on the team, and on their performance in the Tour? Our managing editor Daniel Benson took a look at the situation.

The peloton is grouped up in one big bunch. 39km to go and 2:37.

Lots of Lotto at the head of the field.  That is behind, the one Orica-GreenEdge and one RadioShack-Nissan riders.

The lead group rides through the town of Nesle. Not Nestle, like the chocolate.

35km remaining from 196km

The gap is under two minutes now. And LLSanchez and T. Martin are at the tail end of the field.

A bagpipe band makes music for the peloton!

Some riders do some impressive bunny-hopping over some traffic islands.

30km now.  Time for things to get serious.

Who is going to win today? The experts here at CN are prediciting a mass sprint, but are at odds as to who the winner will be.  I am picking Greipel to repeat, while Laura and Jane take Matt Goss.  Mark and Pete are saying Cavendish will take it as revenge for yesterday.

The four leaders are still working well together, but they won't be away much longer.

We see another bicycle shaped out of hay bales.  It is always fun to see what ideas the fans come up with.

22km and still 1:15 for the four leaders. The can't yet feel the peloton breathing down their neck. They are in the village of Ham, by the way.

The four leaders pass under the 20km banner. The gap is holding steady at 1:17.

We now see lots of Sky at the head of the field. Team Sky that is, not blue sky.

There are a lot of straight roads in today's stage.  A lot of them.

The teams are forming in the peloton. We see Sky on one side, BMC on the other.

And now 15km to go, with a gap of 1:05.

Movistar has formed a train next to Sky.

And we see Lampre lurking behind the Spaniards. Petacchi would love to get a win here today. But so would several others.

BMC is all lined up on the right side of the road, with Cadel Evans not all so very far back.

Now Katusha has also moved up. We don't see Lotto, though...

There are only 10km left in the stage, with 45 seconds seperating the lead group and the peloton.

This is going to be a close one, there are still 40 seconds.

And another nice display in a field along the way: tractors forming a large bike.

Baden Cooke of Orica-GreenEdge is back amongst the team cars and riding furiously to get up front where he belongs, to help Goss in the sprint.

It won't be long now. Only 25 seconds and also only 3.5km.

Simon takes off out of the lead group.

But the four are togehter again.

CRASH.  Within the 3km marker. Veeles, Hutarovich, Farrar, and Peter Sagan down as well!

Sky still in command of things. The four leaders have 15 seconds with 2 km to go.

They must be dreaming of taking it.... 1.5km and 10 seconds.

Boasson Hagen and Cavendish in the lead. Ghyselinck jumps and soloes under the 1km marker.

Will he make it?

He has a slight lead over the othr three, who have a slight lead over the field.

Urtasun takes the lad, but Goss comes by him.

It is Goss against Greipel at the end. And the German takes his second straight sprint!

It is now officially reported as a photo finish: Greipl ahead of Goss and JJ Haedo.

It was a slightly climbing finish, perhaps that was too much for Cavendish.

The crash once again disturbed all the preparations for the sprints, but again, it couldn't have been more dramatic.

Looks like no changes in the top ten of the GC. Meanwhile "Gorilla" Greipel gets hugs and congratulations from his teammates.

And there the top ten from today's stage:

1 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol Team 4:41:28
2 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team 0:00:00
3 Juan José Haedo (Arg) Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank 0:00:00
4 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:00
5 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne 0:00:00
6 Tom Veelers (Ned) Argos-Shimano 0:00:00
7 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Katusha Team 0:00:00
8 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:00:00
9 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:00
10 Yohann Gene (Fra) Team Europcar 0:00:00

The top ten in GC:

1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan 24:45:30
2 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:07
3 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quickstep 0:00:07
4 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:10
5 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling 0:00:11
6 Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team 0:00:13
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:17
8 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:18
9 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Sharp 0:00:18
10 Andreas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:19

It really looked like the escape group would make it all the way to the end.  It really couldn't have been much closer!

Thanks for reading along today and join us again tomorrow for another relatively flat stage, and most likely another exciting sprint!

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