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July 06, 2006

Stage 5 on the road

It's a straight sprinter's stage today, with only 4 4th-Category climbs alongside the usual 3 intermediate sprints.

Early King of the Mountains leader Jerome Pineau led the field over the day's first climb, with two teammates on his wheel to prevent anyone else from earning points in the competition.

About 20 kilometers into the race, 8 riders got away, but the peloton wouldn't let them build a lead, so two riders, Samuel Dumoulin of AG2R and Bjorn Schröder of Milram attacked out of the breakaway at around 40 kilometers ridden. Dumoulin is the smallest guy in the field.

Dumoulin led the 1st sprint, then Schröder, with Johan Van Summeren third, almost 9 minutes behind, just ahead of 2nd-place Michael Rogers, who would have taken over the yellow jersey with the 2 bonus seconds up for grabs. Dumoulin also led Schröder over the day's second little climb, with Fabian Wegmann leading the field over for 1 point in the King of the Mountains competition.

The gap had gotten up around 12 minutes, but it's coming down now.

With around 60 miles to ride, the peloton is riding in a heavy rain, but the 2 leaders have none. The gap will be under 8 minutes over the top of the day's 3rd climb, 90 kilometers from the finish line.

Schröder leads over the 3rd climb, just ahead of Dumoulin. Back in the field, the rain has stopped, and Pineau, de la Fuente, and Wegmann have gone off the front to try to take 3rd place points, Pineau with 2 Bouyges Telecom teammates. Former world champion Laurent Brochard tows him toward the line, Pineau launches his sprint, with de la Fuente on his wheel, but he can't come around, and Pineau earns his point. Gap is down to 7:05.

Dumoulin led Schröder on the 2nd sprint line. Robbie McEwen's Davitamon-Lotto team sent Johan Van Summeren up the road to eliminate any battle for the 3rd-place bonus time. McEwen has an outside chance at yellow with a 3rd stage win today.

It's about 6:30 from Dumoulin and Schröder back to the QuickStep-headed peloton at 70 kilometers to ride.

Over the top of the day's last climb, with 62 kilometers (about 39 miles) to ride, Schröder led Dumoulin up front, and Jerome Pineau again took the single point leading the field, now only 5:40 back.

Here comes the day's last intermediate sprint. Dumoulin led Schröder with 4:55 back to the field. And there goes Van Summeren again, so it will all come down to the finishing sprint.

A fall near the back of the peloton has caught José Gomez Marchante, and taken teammate David de la Fuente and Cofidis rider David Moncoutie off their bikes. They'll have to chase, but it looks like no one is seriously hurt. They're all back in the field now.

Not much progress has been made reeling these two in for a while; with 35 kilometers/21 miles to ride, the gap is still 4 minutes.

There's a cross- to headwind coming off the ocean in the last 20 kilometers. At 18 k, the leaders are at 2:09. Phil and Paul are arguing like an old married couple about whether they can stay away: Phil says, “I think they can, dear,” and Paul says “The mates are going to bring 'em back...”

Discovery Channel's Egoi Martinez is down and hard. He's been on the ground for a minute or more. He's wearing the most combative rider's red number -- it looks like he touched wheels with a Euskaltel.

Okay, Martinez is up, rolling alongside the doctor's convertible white Audi. Discovery has Pavel Padrnos waiting at the back of the field to bring him back.

With a little over 10 kilometers to ride (around 6.5 miles), the gap is down to 1:08. I'm on Paul's side; with the peloton on a major freeway, they can see the rabbits out in front of the greyhounds.

Over on the right of the peloton, Saint Bernard Magnus Backstedt is pulling, and there's a break in the peloton. The leaders are 12 seconds back, in easy sight of Dumoulin and Schröder. They're resigned to the capture, but there's a crash in the front of the peloton, which will slow the capture. Van Summeren's in there. It's less than 5 kilometers to ride, and the break is caught.

Backstedt is dragging the whole field along, and now he's dieseled as long as he can, Milram has a rider in front of two Liquigas riders, two QuickSteps and Tom Boonen. Boonen's shadowed by McEwen. Zabel's nearby.

One k to ride, and QuickStep has Matteo Tossatto on the front, and here comes Milram and Credit Agricole, McEwen's got his leadout; he's coasting, and there goes a Rabobank, Frire up the side, Boonen tries to get up with him, everybody's all out to the line, and Freire takes the stage! Looks like Boonen 2nd, Inaki Isasi of Euskaltel 3rd, David Kopp of Gerolsteiner 4th, and McEwen 5th.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 6, 2006 | Permalink

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