July 6 Stage 5: Carhaix to Cap de Fréhel, 164.5km (102 miles)
The main features of this medium-distance stage are the 45 communities it passes through (increasing the likelihood of crashes) and the winds that almost always blow across the exposed coast of northern Brittany. The finish near Cap Fréhel, a rocky headland jutting into the English Channel (the French call it La Manche), is where Bjarne Riis’s CSC team split the race apart in crosswinds on a stage to St. Brieuc in 2004. This year’s route is in the opposite direction, with the race passing through St. Brieuc 50km from the end, but expect similar tactics from Riis (who now directs Contador’s Saxo Bank team).
THE SCOOP: A short, sharp hill 3km from the finish followed by a fast downhill and a slightly uphill final kilometer with frequent turns could favor a late attack and catch out the sprinters (and a few GC contenders).
OVERALL RATING: *