Le Tour de FranceToday’s fifth stage saw the first successful breakaway of this year’s Le Tour de France.

Thomas Voeckler held off the chasing peloton by seven seconds to win out of a five-man escape in the flat but windy 196.5km course from Cap d’Agde to Perpignan. Russian rider Mikhail Ignatiev also held on from the break to claim second with British sprint phenom Mark Cavendish leading the pack snapping at their heels for third.

Le Tour de France
Thomas Voekler takes the stage, after attacking the break with just under 5km to go, a gutsy and intelligent ride.

Thor Hushovd led Cervélo Test Team across the line with 10th while Carlos Sastre finished in the main bunch to remain 29th overall at 2:44 behind race leader Fabian Cancellara.

Robert Gesink was obviously in pain as he chased after a fall with two teammates - now we know why, he had a broken wrist.
Robert Gesink was obviously in pain as he chased after a fall with two teammates – now we know why, he had a broken wrist.

There were no major shake ups in the overall classification.

Carlos Sastre said;

“The fifth stage of this Tour was nervous from the beginning. It was open country, with narrow roads, crossing from left to right with a lot of cross winds and headwinds. During the stage there were some splits.

“Once again I felt very protected by my teammates and we didn’t have any problems, always staying at the front and in good position. We’ve cleared another important day of this Tour and we’re getting closer and closer to the Pyrenees.”

Pippo has been told to change his Italian Champ's jersey - it's not what the Italian Federation reckon represents the tricolore porperly.
Pippo has been told to change his Italian Champ’s jersey – it’s not what the Italian Federation reckon represents the tricolore porperly.

Brett Lancaster also commented;

“From the start, with the quality of guys in the break, we knew it was going to be hard to pull them back.

“Thor is quite happy when he’s been up there in the sprints. It was a bit of a mess of a sprint, but that break stayed away in the end.

“There was a tense moment when the course turned into strong crosswinds and the pack split into four groups as it braced against the fierce winds.

“We knew it was going to split right there at the lake where it was windy, so we did a good job keeping Carlos at the front. The team felt good today and took it easier after the team time trial. Carlos was real satisfied with how the team rode yesterday.”

Le Tour de France
Tour 09 Stage 5 Map.
Tour 09 Stage 5 Profile.
Tour 09 Stage 5 Profile.

We’re looking forward to tomorrow now, as the Tour continues with the 181.5km sixth stage from Girona to Barcelona in Spain.

The undulating course hugs the spectacular coast road along Catalunya’s Costa Brava before turning inland and looping around toward Barcelona, one of Europe’s most dazzling cities.

Cav keeps his green jersey today, after taking the points for third on the stage.
Cav keeps his green jersey today, after taking the points for third on the stage.

There’s a relatively easy Cat. 4 climb at La Conreria with 22.5km to go, but that shouldn’t slow down the peloton.

The stage finishes atop the short but steep Montjuic hill overlooking Barcelona’s main harbour.

The road is steep enough – with ramps as steep as 6 percent – to split up the main pack and give the peloton’s punchy climber’s a chance to win the stage.

Should be good!

Al Hamilton

Yesterday’s team time trial was a show of domination from the strongest team on this years Tour…

Astana!

AS front cover this morning.
AS front cover this morning.

AS starts with “Por 22 centésimas” [for 22 hundreds], Astana win and Armstrong is not the leader by a fraction of a second. All fairly obvious, but there must have been words in the Astana camp as it seems that the plan was to put Lance in yellow yesterday and then Bert can take over later, mmm, well!

On the second Tour page we have quotes from Armstrong; “Astana si que puede tener a dos lideres” – so it is two leaders again.

Who really knows what's going on at Astana - perhaps they don't even know themselves.
Who really knows what’s going on at Astana – perhaps they don’t even know themselves.

We also have Contador; “El veiernes (Ordino Arcalis) llega ya mi terreno…” – on Friday we enter my terrain…

Andorra here we come. Is that the plan now? Lance for yellow in the next two days and then Bert takes over later? I think when the Texan has that jersey he won’t want to loose it, and we will see more Astana team fall-out.

AS also run all the headlines form around the Sporting World along the top of two pages, not unexpectedly they all say much the same thing, the headline “¿Armstrong y Bruyneel le estan hacienda la cama a Contador?” Basically are Bruyneel and Armstrong in the bed of the house of Contador? Not the way I would put it, but we know what they mean.

Carlos Sastre thought the result was positive and was happy with the work of the team, which was not what Cadel Evans thought of his team; “The team was not prepared for this kind of race – except Lloyd and Wegelius, Silence has very young cyclists”.

Looking forward to the Tour entering Cataluña today and for the next few days [Cataluña covers a large area of France, Spain and Andorra], the ERC (Catalan Independence Party) are encouraging everyone to fly the flags of either Catalonia or the Independence flag, and even the old pre-Franco Spanish Socialist flag with the purple stripe at the bottom.

Also to celebrate the Tour coming to Barcelona and the 50th anniversary of Bahamontes winning the Tour, the Mayor of Barcelona, Jordi Hereu, with the help of Miguel Indurain, unveiled a commemorative town square.

The return of the back page lovely today was with Brooklyn Decker, wife of Andy Roddick – see, there is a sporting connection!

Mrs. Rodick.
Mrs. Roddick.

¡Hasta Luego! Al.

Ed Hood

‘Tommy’ Voeckler is that rare bird — a French rider that Viktor can tolerate and who can actually win races.

Shame about the nick name; “Le Chou-Chou”…excuse me, I have to throw up — ahh, that’s better.

His win in stage 5 was good for the race; it is Le Tour de France after all, the heady days of Hinault and Fignon have gone, so stage wins are as good as it gets for the French fans — and maybe a day or two in yellow.

I’ve managed to catch all the finales live on TV thus far and I saw Voeckler arrive in solitary splendour, shake his head, smile, wave to the crowd, kiss his wedding ring, blow kisses to the crowd then wait for his team mates to cross the line; cuddling them one after another.

Call me a sad old fool, but I like all that stuff — its part of what makes our sport special.

Skil-Shimano have been trying hard; they’ll suffer for that in the mountains but full marks to them for enlivening the race whilst they can — it was Albert Timmer’s turn yesterday, to show the jersey in the break of the day.

Kenny van Hummel is no slouch - he's won five races this year.
Kenny van Hummel is no slouch – he’s won five races this year.

Their sprinter, Van Hummel is quick, not Cav quick (but who is?), but quick nonetheless — he’s won five races so far, this year including a stage in the Four Days of Dunkirk; he was also second in the Scheldeprijs — let’s hope we get the chance to see him in action.

I’ve been chatting to their “Man From Japan,” Fumy Beppu; he’s just so enthusiastic, you can tell that he loves the sport and is having the time of his life in this Tour.

Talking of talking to people; after the TTT I thought it would be good to talk to one of those heroic Garmin guys — I thought that Ryder Hesjedal would be a good bet, with him being Canadian I figured that the Pez Meister might have a number for him.

No dice, so he got hold of the Garmin PR, but it was all taking too long, I had a deadline.

The Garmin DS, Matt White is a good guy and very approachable, so I rang him and had a little chat with Fumy.

Last night I had an interview set up with Tyler Farrar — another polite, approachable, feet-on-the-ground but fast man.

But then Hesjedal’s mobile number arrived from Slipstream — you can’t not take advantage of that; I rattled my questions together and picked up the phone.

At this stage it was looking like I wasn’t going to be talking to Tyler — sometimes riders can’t get back to you; transfers, late dinners, team meets or Media OD all contribute.

I got my piece with Ryder — another sound, pleasant, articulate guy; “That’s fine,” I thought, “that’s worked out well!

Then the red light blinked on the BlackBerry, it was Tyler; “Hi Ed, sorry, would now work?” — again, when a guy who is jousting with Cav asks you to call him, you don’t say; “no!”

Anyway, I was up at 05:30 to convert all those squiggles into copy and write this.

I hope you’re enjoying our efforts, Gord seems to have slipped off the radar but we’ll see if we can get him back.

We asked Al to to buy all the Spanish sports newspapers, but we don't think he minds really!
We asked Al to to buy all the Spanish sports newspapers, but we don’t think he minds really!

Al’s still there though, down at Javi’s Bar in Polop, wading through them Spanish sports papers and drinking café con leche — all just for you!

Barca, today — wish I was there!