The fifth, and longest, stage of the Tour de France is over with British rider Mark Cavendish taking the stage win, while German Stefan Schumacher remains in the Yellow Jersey.
Todays stage took the riders from Cholet to Châteauroux along a fast and flat 232 km (144 mile) course that was designed for the sprinters to grab points before heading into the mountains for the first time tomorrow, when they’ll go from Aigurande from to Super-Besse, a ride of 195.5 km (121 miles), that will mostly consists of climbing throughout the day and ends with a category 2 climb to the summit. The real contenders are expected to emerge over the next few days on the slopes of the Massif Central, which aren’t the high mountains we’ll see later in the race, but are still enough to break the spirit of those pretenders to the crown.
Amongst those contenders is Spaniard Alejandro Valverde who had a scare today when he hit debris on the road and ended up going over his handlebars, landing unceremoniously on the pavement. Valverde suffered a few minor injuries, but not enough to keep him out of the race. Likewise, Aurelien Passeron of France hit a pedestrian woman who strayed out on the course, causing him to crash as well, and losing more than five minutes to the main group in the General Classification.
Last year’s King of the Mountain, Juan Mauricio Soler of Columbia was forced to retire from the race today. He suffered a crash back on the first day of the event, and has been riding with a broken wrist ever since. Soler was losing ground each day and wasn’t expected to contend for the Polka Dot Jersey again this year after that Day 1 mishap.
Tomorrow, the excitement really begins, as fans of the Tour know that it doesn’t really get interesting until the mountain stages. Usually those stages don’t arrive until later in the race, but tomorrow will be a prelude to the Alp and the Pyrenees that loom in the days ahead.
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