Stage 5 – Finally (Or Is That Too Early?) We Hit The Mountains.

We've had a crashy few days in the sprints, now it's time for the mountain goats to shine as the Tour hits the Pyrenees.

By Whit Yost |

Stage 5 – Pau to Laruns (162.7km) – Wednesday, July 5

After two hard days of hills in the Spanish Basque Country, Stage 5 offers no rest for the weary with the first of two stages in the Pyrenees. We usually don’t see mountains like this at this stage of the Tour, but the Tour’s opening weekend meant a first-week “jaunt” through the mountains that form the border between France and Spain was most feasible.

This is a relatively short stage (162.7km), and it starts rather gently, with about 70km of flat to rolling roads as the race heads southwest out of Pau and toward the intermediate sprint in Lanne-en-Barétous, where we should the Tour’s green jersey contenders do their best to score maximum points behind whomever has managed to escape by this point in the day.

Expect American Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) to be one of the escapees. Wearing the polka dot jersey as the leader of the Tour’s King of the Mountains competition, the American enters the stage with 11 point advantage over Slovenia’s Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and has proven eager to defend the jersey during the Tour’s first few days.

And there’s good reason for him to go on the attack: the first of the day’s three categorised climbs is the hors catégorie Col de Soudet–the first “beyond category” climb of the 2023 Tour de France–and 20 points go to the first rider to its summit. 15.2km in length and with an average gradient of 7.2 percent, it’s the toughest climb the riders have faced so far, but with its summit more than 75km from the finish line in Laruns, the Soudet unlikely to have huge impact on Stage 5 beyond softening everyone’s legs before the finale.

Stage 5 Tour de France 2023 profileThe final 40km are where this stage really gets interesting, first with the Category 3 Col d’Ichère (4.2km at 7 percent) and then in a big way with the Category 1 Col de Marie Blanque (7.7km at 8.6 percent). The second half of the Marie Blanque is super-steep with pitches in the 12-13 percent range. And with its summit just 18.5km from the finish line, it’s likely to determine the stage winner.

This is a tough stage to call. It’s built in a fashion similar to Stages 1 and 2, with a tough climb (with time bonuses at the summit) relatively close to the finish line. We could see a larger peloton hit the base of the Marie Blanque together, the UAE Team Emirates and Jumbo-Visma riding tempo on the lower slopes to set up their leaders for attacks as the climb steepens, with an elite group pulling away to contest the finish in Laruns.

The General Classification is still pretty tight at the top, which means any breakaway given a long enough leash to fight for the stage win will need to contain riders too far down the GC to not pose a serious threat. That doesn’t mean the yellow jersey won’t change hands, but if it does it won’t be someone that UAE Team Emirates or Jumbo-Visma think can win the Tour.

There’s a chance of scattered thunderstorms throughout the afternoon could make things interesting on the descent of the Marie Blanque.

Riders to watch

We’ve seen lots of stages for the Tour’s puncheurs, riders who excel on short, steep climbs–climbs like the Col du Marie Blanque. Despite the fact that he’s in the yellow jersey, don’t be surprised if Great Britain’s Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates) gets in the mix, alongside his brother Simon (Team Jayco AlUla). Denmark’s Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek), Spain’s Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious), Canada’s Michael Woods (Israel-PremierTech), and Belgium’s Dylan Teuns (Israel-PremierTech) are all good bets to win a stage like this one.

If a breakaway goes the distance, our pick is American Mateo Jorgenson (Movistar), who finished fourth on a stage with a similar finale in last year’s Tour. The 24-year-old has lost enough time so far that he’s not considered a GC threat. This is the perfect opportunity for him to take his first grand tour stage victory.

And of course, given how eager they’ve been to renew their rivalry, keep an eye on Pogačar and Denmark’s Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma). With time bonuses available at the top of the Marie Blanque, we could see them go on the attack as they did at the end of Stages 1 and 2, possibly setting-up someone else to win the stage in the process.

When to Watch

With another explosive finale expected, this is a stage you won’t want to miss. We’ll be tuning in around 16h30 to see the riders hit the Category 3 Col d’Ichère which serves as a fitting prelude to the Col du Marie Blanque about 10km later. The stage is expected to finish about an hour later.

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