• Rúben Silva

Tour of California Stage 5 Preview

Fabio Jakobsen finally won a stage in the Tour, making up for stage 1 and taking a strong win in front of Jasper Phillipsen and Peter Sagan. The stage as a whole was very calm in the peloton, but come the end there was major drama, with race leader Tejay van Garderen crashing and subsequently going off road, only to then be held up by another big crash in the closing kilometers of the stage. But the biggest surprise of the day came in the jury's decision to keep him in the lead of the race, giving no gaps to him or the riders that had apparently crash outside of the 3Km mark. There were lots of riders affected and with a time loss, but there were no changes in GC with the time being same for everyone, so only some soreness and road rash will remind the riders of the drama in the next few days.

Positive: Jakobsen had a great win, Philipsen with a massive sprint too, he was very close to taking it in front of top-notch competition. EF have to be considered, van Garderen, Uran and Morton had lost serious time but were all given the same time as the winner so EF remain the big force in the overall fight.

Negative: Sagan didn't have the legs to win, simple as that. He seemed to be in the perfect position in the finale, wheel of Philipsen as he launched his sprint, uphill would suit him but he didn't have the power.

Stage 5 will be another hard stage, but this one an unusual presence in this race, a very punchy stage, suited for sprinters who can fly over the hills but definetely for the puncheurs if the stage is attacked enough, there are several opportunities to do so.

A set of longer yet punchy climbs en route to Ventura, but it is with 5 kilometers to go that gaps can be made. The stage is 218 kilometers long and in kilometer 213 will summit a punchy 900 meter ramp at 9%, combined with an intermediate sprint which will trigger some attacks certainly, and from there it's a fairly technical route to the finish line so there's a good chance for an attack to succeed if a good gap is made and there's no organized chase.

The Weather

As for the wind it's set to be a fun one. A tailwind all day long pretty much, will make for a fast and hard day with the hills to ride. In the bulk of the stage, moderate wind, it will favour the break, but the deeper they get into the stage the stronger the wind is, and in Ventura there will be stormy winds waiting for the riders. 40Km/h with 70Km/h gusts, the final kilometers will be mad there, there will be attacks in that hill guarranteedly as it will be in a tailwind, as the technical descent. It's a lottery, attackers are favoured there but then punished with a block headwind by the sea in the run-up to the line. It can kill one's attack, and for the sprint, it needs to be perfectly timed, and positioning is key not to be in front early.

The Favourites

A breakaway should be favoured in a stage with such profile and conditions, but with the startlist present it's hard to name contenders from there, as there's only been one stage with gaps present and the stronger riders should be on top of the standings.

From the peloton it's a varied range of contenders, the climbers should like the stage as the pace is set to be high during the stage, it's a very rolling terrain that will make for good fatigue, but the place where gaps can be made, that final hill with 5Km to go is only 900 meters long, so it's short enough for the puncheurs to thrive, and for some sprinters to get through it and remain in a good position in the peloton. The final 1.5Km are in a block headwind, so if the peloton isn't smashed in gaps there's space for the sprinters to recover position, and the headwind sprint will also favour those who come from behind.

Bora look like the plain contenders for the stage, Grossschartner would like a constantly hard race, as would Schachmann who will also love such finale, he doesn't look as sharp as last month but he looked very good in Lake Tahoe. A very powerful rider, his rouleur abilities make him a perfect candidate to hold up a chasing peloton. And on the sprinter side, obviously there's Sagan, who can profit from the work of the wind in the closing kilometers and can climb these hills well.

Gianni Moscon and the Deceuninck duo Kasper Asgreen and Zdenek Stybar are strong riders, Asgreen more a powerful rider who can move over the top but the other two have the power to create gaps on the true gradients. Sergio Higuita and Rigoberto Uran of EF are also pretty explosive for such efforts, so are to be taken in.

For the sprinters, Travis McCabe is actually a solid choice. He's been climbing very well, he's actually in the Top30 currently, and the short hill won't cause him to blow his chances to win the stage, but he can take it if the conditions are favourable. Jasper Phillipsen, Davide Ballerini, Danny van Poppel are other sprinters who can handle these hills quite well, but will need some luck to be in there.

Nathan Haas, Tadej Pogacar and Edwin Ávila are other riders who can be in discussion in the most variable scenarios, I have to mention them as they are legitimate contenders for the stage.

Prediction Time

Schachmann, Sagan, McCabe

Moscon, Asgreen, Stybar, van Poppel

Philipsen, Ballerini, Grossschartner, Higuita, Haas, Pogacar, Àvila

I really can see Schachmann attacking over the top of the hill. There's a technical descent that will help establish a gap if there's a solo rider, and cause deorganization in the peloton. He's the type of powerful rider who can sustain a gap, but also has a good sprint in case there's a small group sprint.

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