Thursday, July 06, 2006



ART OF THE BUNCH SPRINT. Amazing, isn't it, that after over 200 kilometers of hard pedaling elite corps of riders can organize themselves into slip-streaming "trains," pour on the power, and charge hard to the finish line within inches of each other. Stage 5 was a classic display of the art of the bunch sprint. Victory is measured in inches, not bike lengths. To the winner goes the glory; to the rest, frustration. That's the life of a sprinter. Today it was Spaniard Oscar Freire's turn to out-sprint Tom Boonen (second place but still wearing the Yellow Jersey).


FREIRE'S WIN. This was Oscar Freire's second time to win a stage during a Tour de France; he won a Tour stage several years ago. Freire is a top sprinter and has been in the mix of all the sprint finishes in this year's Tour.

ESCAPE AND CHASE. The peloton let two "escapees" get over 10 minutes ahead of it before picking up the pace to chase the two would-be stage winners down. The two riders were caught within about five kilometeres of the finish line. That's when the sprinters started jockeying for position and organizing for an explosive charge in the last kilometer.

THE ART OF THE ESCAPE. Just as sprinting is an art, so is an escape. Riders who dare to escape off the front of the peloton in hopes of making a solo or small group dash to the end of the stage are called "escapees." The team leaders in the peloton usually will not let just any rider escape; only riders who are no real threat to alter the leadership of the race or challenge the jersies are permitted to launch an escape. Even at that, most escapes are chased down by the peloton before the end of the stage. Sprinters like to claim the big sprint points at the finish line, so they goad the peloton into a chase. That's what happened today.

GREAT TOUR PHOTOS. Scroll easily through lots of pages of really great Tour photography at Yahoo!

STAGE RESULTS. Full results of Stage 5 (and all previous stages) by Cyclingnews.

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS OF THE STAGE: OLN provides free video highlights and commentary wrap-ups of each stage by Bob Roll.

LOOKING TOWARD SATURDAY. Stage 6 will be another flat stage with a bunch sprint finish likely. Stage 7 on Saturday, however, will be an Individual Time Trial. Stage 7 will begin the initial separation of contenders from the rest. American Floyd Landis, for instance, has vowed to try to win this stage. I'm sure he's not alone. But it signals the importance those who are looking to be wearing Yellow in Paris are placing on Saturday's ITT.

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