Stage 4 progressed as expected with some of the big General Classification riders mixing it up at the business end of the race. In the end, Cadel Evans was just able to hold of the sprint of Alberto Contador in a photo finish, with Alexandre Vinokourov third, Rigoberto Uran fourth ahead of the pre-race favourite, Philippe Gilbert, who was unable to add a second stage win on his 29th birthday.
Thor Hushovd performed admirably by staying with the leading pack on the climb up to the finish to retain the yellow jersey, while Jose Joaquin Rojas picked up a few points on the intermediate sprint to retain his green jersey.
Andy Schleck finished in the third group back, losing eight seconds to Contador and Evans, but in reality, this climb was never going to suit the younger Schleck and he will be happy to retain a 1’30 lead over the Spaniard. Another interesting observation from this stage is that Frank Schleck did not remain back to help his brother, but tailed Contador up the hill. Whether the team are eyeing both the Schlecks for the overall classification remains to be seen.
Moving onto Stage 5, the peloton depart from Carhaix, the home of France’s largest music festival, winding their way up and down the hills of the Brittany countryside down to the coast at Plouha. From there, they head along the coast, past St-Brieuc, finishing with a sprint finish at Cap Frehel.
On the face of it, it would appear to be a classic stage for the sprinters. However, with reports of expected crosswinds of up to 40km/h tomorrow, it is vital for the teams to protect their sprinters, and most importantly of all, ensure that they remain in the leading group of the peloton.
Races such as this can easily find the peloton split into several large sections, often separated by reasonable time differences. If one of the sprinters finds themselves in the wrong group if the peloton is forced to split, they can kiss goodbye to their chances of a stage win.
A similar argument must pertain to the leading contenders in the general classification as well. They will want to avoid any threat of losing time to their rivals, so it would be no surprise to see the leading names right at the front of the peloton throughout most of the stage tomorrow.
Onto the betting side of things, Mark Cavendish once again starts as a big favourite for the stage (best price 1/1 with Sky Bet). After getting blocked off around the corner in Stage 3, he will be desperate for a first win of this year’s race. He looked relatively disinterested in today’s intermediate sprint, although he still came through to finish fourth out of the peloton and pick up seven points. However, he looked in excellent form on Monday to race back and grab fifth place and he would appear to be a good bet for tomorrow.
Tyler Farrar won the first sprint finish of the Tour on Monday, but from the position that he found himself in thanks to the brilliant tactical awareness of Thor Hushovd, it was harder to lose than it was to win. However, he did show signs that he might be coming back to some form by winning the intermediate sprint in Stage 4 and will be one to watch in this stage once again.
Outside of these two, it is the same names from Stage 3 to keep an eye on. Alessandro Petacchi has really failed to show anything during the race so far – unsurprising given his lack of action recently. Jose Joaquin Rojas has been solid and consistent so far, which sees him in possession of the green jersey – he has consistently been there or thereabouts in intermediate and finishing sprints. Andre Greipel and Thor Hushovd should be around the front, although Hushovd is again likely to work for Farrar rather than look to win it himself.
Romain Feillu attacked well on Stage 3 and came mere inches away from pipping Farrar on the line and will be led out again by the talented Borut Bozic and may fancy his chances of going one step higher on the podium.
Again though, the Russian, Denis Galimzyanov is one to watch. He won the intermediate sprint on Stage 2, but struggled a little in the narrow sprint finish on Stage 3 finishing in 11th place. However, he may lack the team around him to be a serious contender unless he can latch onto one of the trains of the other sprinters.
Mark Cavendish will be the one to beat in this stage, providing he finds himself in contention come the final sprint. I still remain to be convinced on the form of Farrar, so as an outsider, it is tempting to pick Denis Galimzyanov once again. He has the potential to be one of the top sprinters and he needs a good showing in the near future.
Mark Cavendish to win Stage 5 @ Evens (Sky Bet)
Denis Galimzyanov to win Stage 5 E/W @ 25/1 (Bet365)
Jose Joaquin Rojas to beat Romain Feillu @ 1.787 (Pinnacle)
Jose Joaquin Rojas to beat Alessandro Petacchi @ 10/11 (Stan James)
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