On to stage 5 then, and not only is this a very difficult stage with a hard last 50kms or so, but it's also a long stage at 216kms, the third longest stage of the race.
Limoges to Le Lioran- Wed. 6th July, 216kms
On to stage 5 we have the third longest stage of the race, and comes on the back of two stages of 223kms and 237kms. The riders will definitely be feeling it at the end of this stage, and I think a lot will be surprised by the difficulty of the Pas de Peyrol and Perthus. The first 150kms don't look too difficult, but if you know the Correze and the Cantal regions at all you'll know that there is barely a flat kilometre along these roads.
It's a day that a break could make it, it's a hard kind, of course, to be trying to control the race , but personally I hope that the GC men pull them back on the Pas de Peyrol, they should be going flat out in an effort to blow the race up.
They start in Limoges and head south-east for 135kms on the rolling roads of the Correze region, taking in a Cat 4 climb after just 16kms, but almost as soon as they enter the Cantal the road starts to get a little bit hillier and a little bit harder. First, they take the Cote de Puy Saint Mary (6.8kms at 3.9%), then on to Salers, where there are some very steep roads on the approach to the town, then on to the Cat 3 Col de Neronne, a big-ring climb of 7kms at 3%. At this point, they will have been climbing for nearly 40kms and after a short little descent into the woods, they start the Pas de Peyrol.
The stats say 5.4kms at 8.1%, but it's a nasty brute of a climb, constantly changing pitch and gradient, spent mostly in dark, cold, damp woods. The road is narrow and badly surfaced, and regularly pitches up to sections well into the double digits. The last 3kms are very steep as they finally emerge out of the woods and take the right-hander that takes them to the last kilometre, these parts are all over 11% and will really hurt at this point in the race.
Down the fast and dangerous descent for 11kms (averages 6.6%) and at the bottom they turn sharply left at the ancient church in the village of Mandailles Saint Julien and start on the Col de Perthus (right). The Perthus is steep and rough and the descent also, averaging 7.9% for 4.4kms, with the last two km closer to 10% average.
They turn left off the main road at the foot of the hill of Le Lioran and wind their way up around the Col de Font de Cere, which is 3.3kms long at 5.8% and after a tricky descent down the other side they head up towards the finish with about 700m to go. The final 500m averages around 6%, a finish that could well see a solo winner come home alone, or we could see a fascinating battle between the GC men over this wild and challenging closing 30kms.
Contenders and Favourites
This is going to be an interesting stage as there will probably be many who will be pretty tired after a stressful and exhausting opening few stages, especially with the previous stage being 237kms long. But I think too many of the GC teams will want to take an interest in this finish to allow the break to succeed this time. This is the first big mountains of the race, and although they are referred to a 'medium' mountains in the Tour's description, they're not easy by any means and there will be plenty of riders lose time today, the only question is, will some of the GC men?
Julian Alaphilippe is the +400 favourite for betting pick and that's very short to me.. Yes, he'll like this finish, and yes he looked good for a while on the 6% climb to the finish on stage 2, but he ran out of juice at the death and was passed by Sagan.
When I was there at Christmas I thought this finish is perfect for Dan Martin, I think he could be one of those to attack the Col de Font de Cere and plunge down the other side, or more likely he will bide his time and sit in, waiting for the final climb to the line. Once on it, I think he has a great chance of attacking hard, this is like the finish of Liege-Bastogne-Liege with the many lumps and hills in the run-in, and a 6% uphill finish, which we know he masters. At +1200 he looks worth a bet.
Another rider I want to keep onside for this is Romain Bardet - I've already mentioned how he is from the Auvergne and these are his training roads, he has said he knows the finish to this stage like the back of his hand. I expect to see him maybe trying to stretch things and attack the Perthus, we all know how well he can descend when on the attack and he will know every metre of this tricky descent, a huge advantage over his rivals. It may be though that he waits for the Col de Font de Cere and tries attacking near the top of that as they get on to the narrow roads, and if he has a small gap he will stretch that on the descent down the other side. His betting odds are +4000 at Skybet, although I'd recommend taking the +3300 at PaddyPower as they are paying 5 places.
Alejandro Valverde is 3rd favourite at +700, and that is a good looking price on this finish, the uphill sprint after a tough day in the saddle is right up his street too, as we know from LBL. He will be on Nairo babysitting duties though today and will have to work for him I think over the last 30kms, but you'd never know - if Quintana is feeling good, he may not need help, and they have plenty of other helpers. He did feature in the uphill sprint on stage 2, taking 3rd spot, I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the frame again.
Peter Sagan was 4th favourite at just +1200, and if the finish didn't have the climbs before it I'd have been all over that I think. But I don't think Sagan will be able to stay with these guys when it goes full gas at the finish, there are some tough climbs to get over and they'll be doing their best to shed him I think.
Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana are sure to be right at the front, they won't want to lose any time to anyone, but whether they will have the punch to win up this hill is another matter. Vincenzo Nibali, Rui Costa, Bauke Mollema, Fabio Aru - all guys who could go well on this finish too, Nibali being one that could take advantage on the descent to the last kilometre.
Adam Yates, Jarlinson Pantano , Alexis Vuillermoz, Tom Jelte Slagter at +8000 (he was looking good on stage 2), Jesus Herrada.. all could be involved, all could have chances. As could Sylvain Chavanel, he's +12500, he said today that he would like to try something tomorrow, whether it will work or not is another question. Big price though for an interest on roads he likes.
0.5pts each-way on Romain Bardet at +3300 PaddyPower paying 5 places
0.5pts each-way on Dan Martin at +1200 at Bet365
0.75pts each-way on Alejandro Valverde at +700 at Various
0.2pts each-way on Sylvain Chavanel at +12500 at PaddyPower paying 5 places
Kelderman to beat Gallopin - 2pts at +100
Froome to beat Mollema, Martin to beat Rodriguez, Costa to beat T Dumoulin - 2pts on the treble +250 at Bet365