Cagnes-Sur-Mer to Marseille (228.5km)
Wednesday, July 3 5:45 A.M. EDT – 10:11 A.M. EDT
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Orica-GreenEdge made it two in a row and now will be eager to keep the yellow jersey on Simon Gerrans’ shoulders. Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) are yet to compete in a bunch sprint in this year’s Tour de France and their teams will make sure they get the chance in Marseille.
For the riders it will be a long day in the saddle, with 230 kilometers to overcome. The stage starts out with a steep, Cat. 3 climb and this is a good place for a break to get away. The sprinters’ teams will do whatever they can do control the race and together with Orica, they shouldn’t have problems bringing the breakaway back in time.
On paper, it’s an undulating route, but the climbs aren’t steep. The last ramp, the Col de la Gineste, isn’t even categorized by the ASO. The 7km towards the top have an average gradient of just three percent and the descent is very fast. There are only 12.5km to go from Col de la Gineste and some riders will most likely try to get away over the top. However, a strong headwind won’t favor a breakaway and its chances to succeed are very slim.
Cavendish has 23 Tour stage to his name and came to the race as the big favorite for the sprint stages, but he’s been suffering from bronchitis. The former world champion seemed to be feeling better in the team time trial and if he’s ready again, Cavendish will be tough to beat in the sprint. Another strong candidate for the stage win is Greipel. Like Cavendish, Greipel hasn’t had a chance to show his strength yet, but he is eager to change that fact. The German champion has a very strong team to back him up and he’s generally handling the climbs better than Cavendish. He won a stage at the Presidential Tour of Turkey earlier this year despite a long climb near the finish, and with a good leadout train, Greipel will be difficult to pass in the final meters.
Green jersey Peter Sagan (Cannondale) went down hard in the late crash in stage 1 and he hasn’t been feeling great since. He doesn’t have problems coping with the climbs, but his sprint has been weakened. Normally Sagan wouldn’t have a problem beating Gerrans in a sprint like he did in stage 3, but he’s clearly not on top of his game. In stage 5 he has another chance, but against Cavendish and especially Greipel, it won’t be easy for the Slovakian super star. —MIKKEL CONDÉ
Flat out in the South
Finally, the riders can ease off a touch and take some time to catch their breath. The sprinters should have an opportunity, but a breakaway will surely try to survive all the way to the finish. Plenty of teams will already be taking stock of where they stand. Who is on form and who is off? Who must forget about the general classification and start thinking about stage wins? In the eras of Merckx or Hinault, they might have come away from Corsica with an advantage of three or four minutes and the Tour would already be as good as done. This year, however, the race will be a lot more open.