The peloton of this Tour de France 2021 can breathe. After days of collective falls and general tensions on the tortuous roads of Brittany, the riders of the Tour will find this Wednesday, June 30 the peace of a marked exercise in Mayenne, without fear that their neighbors will drag them into their uncontrolled skids. The effort will be relatively short – around thirty minutes – and lonely for this fifth stage: 27 kilometers in an individual time trial, between Changé and Laval.
“The first part is not all boring”
As usual, the specialists will be to their advantage and will gain precious seconds over their less comfortable rivals with their nose in the handlebars. “But the first part is not all flat and it is quite technical, emphasizes Yvon Madiot, sporting director of Groupama-FDJ and regional of the stage, since he was born in Mayenne like his brother Marc. This can allow climbers to limit breakage. Afterwards, the big rollers will be in front. We know them. “
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These “chronomen” are called Tony Martin, Primoz Roglic, Stefan Küng, Geraint Thomas or Tadej Pogacar. They are not used to getting to work so early in the Tour calendar. There had been no individual time trial of this length in the first week since the 2008 edition, which also started from Brest. It was a Cholet-Cholet, won by the German Stefan Schumacher, then downgraded for doping.
There is better publicity for a specialty that ended up getting bad press. Judged guilty of excluding pure climbers from the race for the yellow jersey, without being able to catch up in the mountains, or even to be relatively little television, it only subsisted in its team form or was postponed at the end of the program. There was the counter-example of the first stage in Düsseldorf (Germany) in 2017, but it was limited to 14 kilometers.
“A very important exercise”
Last year, the only solo event was placed on the penultimate day of the race. Slovenian Tadej Pogacar seized the opportunity to take the yellow jersey from his compatriot Primoz Roglic after a rather mountainous Grande Boucle. This time, the organizers changed their minds to go back with two individual time trials.
→ FIND the general classification of the Tour de France 2021
To the 27 kilometers in Mayenne will be added the 31 kilometers planned between Libourne and Saint-Emilion, on Saturday July 17, the day before the arrival at the Champs-Élysées. In total, it is 58 kilometers. “It’s a lot and it’s interesting, comments Julien Jurdie, sporting director of AG2R-Citroën. The wheel must turn. As there are fewer arrivals at the top, this opens up other perspectives for roller-climber type runners. “
Will the Mayenne serve to differentiate between the main favorites of the Tour de France?” I do not know, answers Vincent Lavenu, general manager of the same French team. What is certain is that this is a very important exercise. The “big” runners will measure themselves, they are always focused on this subject. But I’m not sure that changes the face of the Tour completely. ” It could at least change the scenario of a chaotic start to the race.
“A race perhaps more unbridled than ever”
The differences have grown over the many incidents and accidents of the first few days. “The time trial will only accentuate them, predicts Cédric Vasseur, general manager of Cofidis. We risk ending up, the next day, with a race that may be more unbridled than ever and to which we are not used to. I think that this will contribute, once we get to the Alps, to seeing breakaways and movements every day. “
Julien Jurdie makes the same assumption : “With this time trial in the first week, some climbers will have to discover themselves in the Alps to make up for lost time. ” While waiting for the peaks, this fifth stage is also a great opportunity for Julian Alaphilippe to try to take back the yellow jersey. The Frenchman has already shown that he is not clumsy in this kind of effort, even when he is not scheduled in the first week.
The 31e success of Mark Cavendish
The Briton Mark Cavendish won his 31st Tour de France victory by winning the sprint in the fourth stage, contested on Tuesday June 29 over 152 kilometers between Redon and Fougères in Ille-et-Vilaine. Held in extremis for this 108e edition, the 36-year-old sprinter had not been successful on the Big Loop since 2016.
The day was also an opportunity for the runners to demonstrate in silence. They dismounted for a minute, just after Redon left, to protest after the multiple falls the day before. Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel retains the yellow jersey.