Tour de France stage 5 preview - Cobbles set to lay bare the contenders

Tour de France stage 5 preview of cobbled sector
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Stage 5: Lille Métropole to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut

Date: July 6, 2022

Distance: 153.7km

Stage timing: 13:35 - 17:15 CEST

Stage type: Hilly

This year’s Tour de France has so far seen only early skirmishes in the battle for overall victory but that will change dramatically on Wednesday as the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix offer a chance for the bravest and strongest in the peloton to distance their rivals and eliminate them as a threat.

Everything that has been hidden in the last few days, and only subtly indicated in the opening Copenhagen time trial, will be laid bare on Wednesday afternoon on the dry and dusty cobbled lanes of northern France.

It has been a number of years since we’ve seen the cobbles centre-stage at the Tour de France and some feverently believe that the pavé has no place in a modern Tour de France. However, race director Thierry Gouvenou disagrees and explained why to Cyclingnews.

"Last time there weren't so many gaps, so that's why I'm hoping for a few more this year. That's why I put in some longer sectors,” Gouvenou said. “The accumulation of long sectors can provoke splits, and I hope we'll have the first true time gaps of the Tour at Arenberg on Wednesday.”

The warm and dry conditions expected for Northern France on Wednesday mean we are likely to see a race like 2018, when John Degenkolb blasted toward an emotional victory. There will be no mud fest and disaster, as in 2014, when the cobbles were wet and Vincenzo Nibali gained enough time to set-up overall victory.

Regardless, we can still be sure that there will again be crashes, time gaps and drama.

The details of the cobbled sectors

Just like at Paris-Roubaix, the 11 sectors of pavé count down as they near the finish, each with a star rating of between two and four. There is a total of 19.4km of the stuff, all coming in the second half of the 157km stage, with Gouvenou cruelly placing the worst and longest sectors to do the most damage.

The first sector comes after 80km and is a taster of what is to come. The cobbles then come far more frequently as racing approaches the 100km mark, with five sectors spread across the next 20km. They are all around 1500m in length, all enough to line out the peloton and cause disaster for someone. There will be no way back from a puncture or crash.

Things then get really serious 30km from the finish, beginning with the 2,800-metre long four-star sector between Erre and Wandignies-Hamage, part of the longer Hornaing-Wandignies sector in Paris-Roubaix.

This is closely followed by the sector from Warlaing to Brillon – 2,400 metres – and another four-star sector, which is also 2,400 metres long, between Tilloy-lez-Marchiennes and Sars-et-Rosières. That triple whammy of long, hard cobbled sectors ends with 17.8km to go.

There will be huge fight for position going into the three sectors and the race scenario is likely to be significantly different when they emerge from them. Any gaps that open up will likely be extended and defended all the way to the finish. For anyone distanced or left behind, there is surely no way back.

The penultimate 1,400m sector between Bousignies and Millonfosse is included to perhaps launch solo attacks for the stage victory, while the final sector, 1,600-metre from Hasnon to Wallers, is the famous Pont Gibus sector that traditionally follows the Trouée d’Arenberg in Paris-Roubaix but this time will be raced in the opposite direction.

From the end of the Pont Gibus sector, just 5.1km remain to the finish positioned at the Arenberg mine, with its famous pit-heads, at the entrance to the Trouée d’Arenberg.

The answers embedded in the cobbles

The 19.4km of cobbles over 11 sectors will surely reveal the true strength of the Jumbo-Visma team and show if Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard can fight for overall victory, all while Wout van Aert chases personal success and the green points jersey. Will Van Aert stay loyal to the team’s highest cause or pursue personal glory by going with the attacks?

The cobbles will also reveal the true hierarchy at Ineos Grenadiers in some way, even if their best climbers, Dani Martínez and Adam Yates, risk losing time to former Classics rider Geraint Thomas.

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) has appeared unbeatable in the last 24 months but is that really the case if he is alone and isolated? The cobbles could potentially reveal a cruel verdict.

Other GC contenders like Enric Mas (Movistar), Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe), Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citroën), Damiano Caruso and Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious), Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) risk losing even more time.

One thing is sure, the overall GC battle at the 2022 Tour de France will look very different after this stage.

“I think it’s going to be a really hard stage for everyone and a great show on television,” Pogačar suggested, perhaps wishing he was watching on his sofa rather than in the saddle hoping to survive the day unscathed.    

Compounding the GC battle of the Tour is the presence of many of the biggest Classics rider in the world.

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), the Trek-Segafredo duo of Mads Pedersen and Jasper Stuyven, Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) and Kasper Asgreen (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) will be among those who will race as if stage 5 is a July Classic – attacking from the front in search of personal glory instead of looking behind and easing up to protect their team leaders. 

The GC contenders will follow them at their peril.

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Stephen Farrand
Head of News

Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.

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