Rouen — Saint-Quentin (122 miles/196.5km)
Thursday 5 July
Live Coverage sponsored by Clif Bar
With only two days left before the first major mountains, stage 5 is the flattest stage yet for the fast men, who will depend on their teammates on the Saint Quentin road to get them to the line in perfect position. This is the district of the Champs Élysées — the finish line will be marked out on the edge of the Champs Élysées Park — so expect sprinters to be extra motivated, especially those who may not make it to Paris. The run-in is mostly straight and flat, with a slight rise toward the final 500 meters.
Again, a shootout between André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Mark Cavendish (Sky) could be inevitable here, but with no major obstacles to deal with, any savvy sprinter could find himself in position near the end, so long as he has at least one man to help him into the front of the line. This could also be a chance for American Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) to get his second Tour stage win, after last year’s Fourth of July win in Redon.
The first five-time winner of the Tour, Jacques Anquetil opened his 1961-1964 four-peat in Rouen. In the run toward Versailles, Anquetil beat Charly Gaul in the first half-stage. That evening, he won the second half as well, a time trial, and put on the yellow jersey. He then wore that jersey all the way to Paris — for a wire-to-wire win — in a feat that has never been achieved again. The Grand Départ took place in Rouen again 1997.
The second time the Tour finished in Saint Quentin, in 2006, Robbie McEwen won his second sprint in three days, en route to a third stage victory two days later in Vitré. McEwen retired in May and is back as a coach with Orica-GreenEdge. Oscar Freire (Katusha) is the only rider starting this year’s Tour to finish in the top four that day. Perhaps the Spaniard can get one over on the favorites in what may be his last Tour.