Date: Wednesday July 6
Finish: Wallers Arenberg Porte du Hainaut
Distance: 155 km
It’s been four years since the Tour’s last ‘Roubaix’ stage and stage 5’s offering is what race director Christian Prudhomme has described as “the most acrobatic challenge” of the opening week. Maybe the translation has added callousness, but the journey across the cobbles will, unfortunately, likely wreck at least one GC hopeful’s chances.
Both Tadej Pogačar and Primoz Roglič took time in the spring to get some bone-juddering experience under their belts, and of the two, Roglič was the more impressive. With 11 cobbled sectors packed into the second half of the course, it will be a nervy day for all GC riders and their teams.
Who will win stage 5?
In 2018, the top 5 consisted of John Degenkolb (DSM), Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), Philippe Gilbert (Lotto-Soudal) and Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies), nearly all of whom are here. But that was the pre-Van era. Expect to see the rest of the race scrambling to hang on to the coattails of Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel as they steam away up the road, gliding over the cobbles. That is, if Van Aert isn’t saved to guide both Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard safely through a major hazard en route to yellow, paying them back after his freedom on stage 4.
Other contenders? Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) could make a good go of it, as could Gilbert’s teammate Florian Vermeersch (Lotto Soudal), both previous runners-up at Roubaix. Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) and Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious) could be good outside bets too, and we can’t possibly overlook this year’s Paris-Roubaix winner Dylan van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers), although his expertise may well be called on by his GC leaders.