Thursday, 8 July 2010

Stage 5 preview; redemption or torture for HTC-Columbia?

Champagne vineyards surround the town of Epernay as far as the eye can see; a beautifully quinessential french countryside backdrop to stage 5. Epernay is no stranger to the Tour having also hosted a stage start in 1978 and 2002. Continuing south over two category 4 climbs in the early kilometers, the peloton will relax into into a flat day passing Paris, 35 km to the west.

Today's stage finish in Montargis is no stranger to Robbie McEwen, having won back in 2005 when the Tour last visited the town that is also known as the "Venice of the G√Ętinais" for its sprawling network of canals and bridges. Early weather reports suggest it will be one of the hottest days the Tour has seen in recent time. Hydration therefore will be important. All riders fear thirst; if you're thirsty its basically too late. Drinks will need to be hypotonic and ice cold for optimum intake.

With a flat finish, the sprinters will look to further their advantage over Cavendish in the competition for points as they capitalise on the misfortune befalling HTC-Columbia. Minus Kirchen and Hincapie, the Missile is misfiring, as Michael Renshaw, lead-out man for Mark Cavendish, appears unable to bring his man to the fore at the right time, leaving him to battle the seemingly stronger Lampre and Cerevelo trains in a solo bid for glory.

HTC-Columbia may find solace in the sucess of their Giro Donne team, as Teutenburg brings home four straight wins, but here on the Tour it seems they are suffering the torture that comes with the expectation of a repeat performance for the young Manxman. Emotion runs high as he throws his toys-and his helmet by all accounts-out of the pram, but many forget that his is only 25 and this is only his third appearance in Le Grand Boucle. He may find some redemption if he succeeds today, but if his ride is yet again marred by failure then rumour has it he may retire early, making 2009 his only full Tour appearance in his career to date.

Three intermediate sprint opportunities will be available in the 185 km route for the 188 riders who remain following to more abandoners during stage 4.

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