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93rd Tour de France - ProT

France, July 1-23, 2006

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Stage 5 - Thursday, July 6: Beauvais-Caen, 225 km

Live Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Anthony Tan and Brecht Decaluwé

Live report

Live coverage starts: 11:40 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:10 CEST

A few minutes before
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
(Click for larger image)

21:10 CEST   
After almost a week of racing, there are bound to be some tired legs in Le Tour and Stage 5 across the the lumpy, bumpy little roads of Normandy to Caen, the home of tasty tripe and le Trou Normand. One could see a break with newly crowned French champ Flo Brard staving off the onslaught of sprinters' teams in the finale. But not likely.

11:36 CEST   
Welcome to sunny Beauvais for our blimp-powered live coverage of the fifth stage of the Tour de France. As usual in the Tour's first week, today's stage is another one for the flatlanders, with just a few small climbs to break the monotony as we head almost due west across Normandy.

After 10.5 km, we've got the Mont des Fourches (Cat. 4, 2.4 km), then at km 109 we meet the Côte du Buquet (Cat. 4, 3.1 km). At km 134.5, we strike the Côte de Saint-Grégoire-du-Vièvre (Cat. 4, 3.2 km), and finally at km 159, the Côte du Boulay (Cat. 4, 1.6 km) greets us. The day's three intermediate sprints are at Les Andelys (km 66.5), Saint-Georges-Du-Vievre (km 140.5), and Pont-L'Evêque (km 175.0).

The weather? Sunny and warm, with temps in the mid-20s, but there's a chance of thunderstorms later.

11:48 CEST   
Today's stage starts with a few kilometres of neutral riding out of Beauvais, a fairly ancient town that has been established for more than 1700 years. But there's not much time for sightseeing, unfortunately, as we're already on our way out.

11:55 CEST   
Huge crowds cheer the riders out of Beauvais and the riders complete their 5.6 km before the flag drops. There's almost no wind today, so it should be easy for the bunch to stick together.

11:59 CEST    3km/222km to go
The flag was dropped at 11:54 Central European Summer Time, and stage 5 is go! 172 riders are still in the race, with no non-starters after yesterday.

12:04 CEST    6km/219km to go
The peloton sticks together over the early part of the stage, enjoying the slightly cooler conditions today. It's the fourth 200+ km stage in a row, and there's no need to hurry.

12:06 CEST   
Julian Dean (Credit Agricole) is starting today after his tumble in the sprint yesterday. The New Zealander has abrasions on his right thigh and leg, but was able to start.

12:08 CEST    8km/217km to go
The bunch is at the foot of the Mont des Fourches, still compact. We can expect a few mini-fireworks on this climb as mountains leader Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues), David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval) and Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) fight it out for the pickings. With some smart riding today, Pineau should be able to keep the spotty jersey.

12:10 CEST   
The first attack comes from Christophe Laurent (Agritubel), who is chased by Bram De Groot (Rabobank), Arnaud Coyot (Cofidis), Bernhard Eisel (Française des Jeux) and Matthieu Sprick (Bouygues).

12:12 CEST    9km/216km to go
Patrice Halgand (CA) and Cedric Vasseur (Quick.Step) catch the break of five on the climb.

12:15 CEST    10km/215km to go
The break is annulled by the Bouygues Telecom team, who want to keep things together for Pineau.

12:17 CEST    12km/213km to go
And it's all Bouygues, all the time, as Pineau takes the 3 points atop the Fourches ahead of teammates Pierrick Fedrigo and Anthony Geslin. He's almost done enough today already to keep the polka dots.

12:18 CEST    13km/212km to go
Geslin counter-attacks and gets a gap on the descent. He is chased by Matej Mugerli (Liquigas) and Stephane Auge (Cofidis).

12:21 CEST    18km/207km to go
Geslin is only 10 seconds ahead of the bunch, which has swallowed Auge and Mugerli. The Frenchman gives up too.

12:25 CEST    21km/204km to go
The bunch takes approximately 1 minute to pass by Jamericourt, a tiny village in Picardie. Now there is more attacking going on. Who can get into the break?

12:30 CEST    25km/200km to go
The break grows to eight riders: Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R-Prevoyance), Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner), Bram De Groot (Rabobank), Bram Tankink (Quick-Step-Innergetic), Daniele Righi (Lampre-Fondital), Stéphane Auge (Cofidis), Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas), Björn Schröder (Milram). They attacked at km 20 and now have 25 seconds on the bunch.

12:31 CEST    28km/197km to go
Of the eight, Seppel Lang is the best placed on GC, starting the day at 1'35 behind Tom Boonen in 97th place. So, this could be the one that works.

12:36 CEST    30km/195km to go
The gap is now half a minute - still enough for the peloton to close, but it's getting to that point where no-one will be able to bridge across. They fly through Gisors and are now in Haute-Normandie.

12:38 CEST    34km/191km to go
It's all flat farmland around here, and there aren't too many trees to provide shelter. Fortunately it's neither windy nor super hot.

The eight leaders sit 26 seconds ahead of the bunch. Still touch and go.

12:41 CEST    35km/190km to go
Two teams have missed the break: Credit Agricole and Bouygues Telecom. They're the ones responsible for chasing it hard at the moment. The gap comes back to 17 seconds.

12:42 CEST   
Belgian sprinter Tom Boonen was the first rider since Greg Lemond to wear the yellow jersey while being world champion. At the same time, he was able to ride through his own country. "It was really special, extraordinary!" Boonen told Cyclingnews at the start. "Next year, we’re back in Belgium and I think I might try to take the yellow jersey again, because it’s a really special feeling."

So far, this Tour de France delivered in green and yellow jerseys, but still there isn’t a stage victory for Boonen. "I'm just missing some luck. I'm strong enough but it’s always something that keeps me away from a victory. For example yesterday, the sprint starts from behind and that’s not good for me. When you're in front in the last kilometre, in a normal sprint you're at least second of third. Now, for three times already, the winner is attacking from fifteenth or twentieth position; which is only possible because the speed isn’t that high. We can adapt to that situation with a new tactic, but everyday is different of course."

12:46 CEST    37km/188km to go
The break reduces in size as Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R-Prevoyance) and Björn Schröder (Milram) attack, and now hold 12 seconds over the bunch, which has caught the rest.

12:49 CEST    42km/183km to go
Dumoulin and Schröder have 35 seconds now as they head into Vesly. The chase has eased, partly because Dumoulin is the best on GC at 3'52 (123rd overall.

12:51 CEST    44km/181km to go
Bang, they're gone. The two up front, who were part of the earlier break of eight, now have a handy 1'15 over the peloton, which had pegged them back to 12 seconds at one stage. It pays to be persistent.

12:56 CEST    47km/178km to go
The gap continues to grow - 3'00 - as the lead pair get to within 20 km of the day's first intermediate sprint. For the front two, the points and seconds (6/4/2 points/seconds for top 3) won't matter, because neither of them are green jersey contendahs or are in the hunt for yellow. But the two remaining seconds on offer could see the sprinters in the peloton have a go at it.

13:03 CEST    51km/174km to go
The peloton settles back into cruise control as Dumoulin and Schröder get 3'35 ahead. Dumoulin will be maillot jaune virtuel soon, but that won't likely bother Boonen and co.

13:06 CEST    54km/171km to go
The lead jumps to 5'30, which now puts Dumoulin into that prestigious imaginary jersey. Schröder is effectively second on GC, as he started the day 5'21 behind.

13:12 CEST    57km/168km to go
Another 10 km to the bustling town of Les Andelys, the site of today's first sprint. The smallest rider in the race, Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R-Prevoyance), is working hard with Björn Schröder (Milram) to keep increasing their lead. Schröder is probably cursing himself for not choosing a better breakaway companion to draft behind.

45.5 km were raced in the first hour.

13:14 CEST   
Any best on the maximum lead today? The gap is now 6'40.

13:18 CEST    66.5km/158.5km to go
The two leaders are now edging up to over seven minutes, with just 5 km to go before Les Andelys, where it's all happening.

13:23 CEST    65km/160km to go
2 km from the sprint, Dumoulin and Schröder are eight minutes clear of the bunch, which hasn't gotten itself into chase mode yet. Quick.Step's Wilfried Cretskens worked a lot yesterday, and wasn't looking forward to this stage. "I'm not going to work in front of the peloton for 200 kilometres," he told us. "We’ll have to see what happens."

Working hard pays off when there is a victory, though. "The Belgian press is
putting on some pressure because we didn't have a stage victory just yet. But we did win the yellow and green jersey already. Still, it would make us happy of course, but there are lots of chances left in this Tour de France."

13:25 CEST   
Christopher from Copenhagen reckons that the maximum lead will be 18 minutes at 132 km to go. Hmm, we'll see. I don't think they'll get that much!

13:29 CEST    67km/158km to go
It's Dumoulin who takes the 6 points and 6 bonus seconds at Les Andelys, with Schröder second. That means if Dumoulin is caught and manages to finish in the same time as the winner today, he will move himself up from 123rd to 122nd on the general classification. It's the little things that count.

13:32 CEST    73km/152km to go
John from Australia believes that the breakaways will get to a maximum of 15'00. The last time check was 8'40.

My own guess: 11'30.

13:36 CEST    75km/150km to go
Johan Vansummeren (Davitamon) has attacked the peloton to try to snaffle third place in the sprint. It's likely not for his own chances, but as a spoiler move to prevent either Hushovd, Bennati or Boonen from taking third, and allowing Robbie McEwen to rest easy. McEwen typically doesn't go for the intermediate sprints.

13:37 CEST   
Vansummeren is third at 8'40, then Rogers (who could have taken the maillot jaune) another 40 seconds back, with the peloton at 9'40.

13:39 CEST    77km/148km to go
Rogers sits up and goes back to the bunch. Fourth isn't good enough for time bonuses. But Vansummeren got a minute's lead, so he might continue. Nope, he too goes back to the bunch, which trails the lead duo by 9'30.

13:41 CEST    78km/147km to go
The peloton ambles along for a bit longer, and the leaders manage to get another minute's advantage: 10'20 is the latest time check. They've still got a long way to defend that though.

13:46 CEST   
The lead stabilises as Dumoulin requires a new bike, and of course Schröder waits for him.

13:48 CEST    81km/144km to go
Now it's on the up again. 11'50. So much for my prediction!

Sean, from India at the moment, predicts it will hit 12'40, and that Boonen's best chance of victory might be a solo attack, a la Flanders. That mightn't be as crazy as it sounds, as the speed in the final kilometres has not been that high. But Boonen will surely be a marked man in that yellow jersey.

13:52 CEST   
By the way, in case it wasn't clear from the results yesterday, Thor Hushovd was relegated from 4th place to 148th place for "irregular sprinting". When his teammate Julian Dean hit the deck in the final few hundred metres, Thor was on the left with Bernhard Eisel on his left. Thor moved closer to the barriers, and Eisel got squeezed, so the judges decided to relegate Thor. That changed the points classification, meaning that Boonen should only be 9 points behind McEwen for the green jersey (by my back of the envelope calculation performed last night).

13:56 CEST    87km/138km to go
Dumoulin and Schröder (or Schröder and Dumoulin if you prefer) are rolling across Normandy, keeping up a good tempo in the perfect weather conditions. They've now hit 12'10, and it keeps going up.

14:03 CEST    91km/134km to go
It's fairly quiet out here in the countryside, which is dominated by farmland. It's almost too quiet. Most of the towns that the race passes through are quite small, with populations of under 1000. Next stop: La Vallée, then the rather bigger town of Elbeuf (pop. 17202, about to increase for a few minutes).

14:09 CEST    94km/131km to go
Phil from Canberra, Australia, wonders about Michael Rogers' chances of taking the yellow today. Well, he certainly does have a chance, as he is only 1 second behind the lead of Tom Boonen. He'd have to take third in either one of the two intermediate sprints coming up to do that. And he'd have to have quite a few other things go his way too, such as anyone within striking distance of GC not placing in the top 3 of the stage.

It's likely that Rogers will save it for Saturday's time trial, but there are a number of other contenders for yellow too. David Zabriskie, George Hincapie, Paolo Savoldelli, Floyd Landis, Serguei Gonchar, David Millar, Bobby Julich, and Levi Leipheimer all have half decent chances.

12'50 is the gap.

14:13 CEST    97km/128km to go
We're now heading into Elbeuf, which is one of the bigger towns en route. The race has been following the Seine for a while, crossing it once, but now it leaves it behind. No "in Seine" jokes please.

14:14 CEST   
The average speed after two hours is 42.9 km/h, which is fairly respectable (and not insane) for a day like today.

14:18 CEST    100km/125km to go
Quick.Step is now doing a bit of chasing, bringing the gap back from 12'50 to 12'25. Hmm, looks like Sean from India at the moment got the closest guess to the maximum gap. He picked it as 12'40. We'll see if it goes up any further though.

Wilfried Cretskens will be hoping that Tommeke pulls off a big win today.

14:23 CEST   
Some more analysis of who could be in yellow by this afternoon.

There are four seconds left for the top GC guys in the intermediate sprints. There are also 20, 12, and 8 second bonuses for the first three across the line. The top 10 on GC looks like this:

1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step-Innergetic                 19.52.13
2 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile 0.01
3 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 0.05
4 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole 0.07
5 Egoi Martinez (Spa) Discovery Channel 0.10
6 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 0.12
7 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel 0.15
8 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
9 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 0.16
10 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 0.17

So there are a few possibilities: Bennati, McEwen, Hushovd and Boonen, being the best sprinters, are most likely to take (or keep) the maillot jaune today. But of course we have to see what transpires in the final kick to the line in Caen. Assuming these two in front get caught.

14:26 CEST    106km/119km to go
The leaders commence the day's second climb, the Côte du Buquet, which averages 3.4% for 3.1 km. It's not really an Alp. Maybe a Normandy Alp.

Their last time check was 11'45 over the now chasing peloton. Still plenty of time to reel them in, but it's going to be a tough chase.

14:34 CEST    110km/115km to go
Quick.Step has already carved two minutes off this lead, and the front pair are now a mere 10'50 ahead of the bunch. Schröder is first over the climb ahead of Dumoulin, reversing the positions of the day's intermediate sprint. That's normal in a break this size, as although it's unlikely that these two will contend for the overall points or mountains jerseys, there are still euros up for grabs. A sprint is worth €800, par exemple.

14:39 CEST    114km/111km to go
As predicted, there are a few light drops of rain falling, as the bunch travels up the climb, now 9'37 behind the break. Quick.Step has assumed the position on the front, and will be relentless today. No help from Credit Agricole, who are unhappy about Hushovd's relegation yesterday.

Fabian Wegmann takes third on the climb ahead of Pineau, who gives the German credit for his wicked uphill sprinting powers.

14:42 CEST    117km/108km to go
Quick.Step only has three riders working, but they are having an effect on the gap of Schröder and Dumoulin. It's now down to 9 minutes.

14:45 CEST    119km/106km to go
Schröder munches on some food and gives the thumbs up, as he follows the small figure of Dumoulin. The roads are now quite wet, although it's only a small shower.

14:48 CEST    121km/104km to go
Behind Quick.Step, which has Cretskens, Tankink, Vasseur, and Garate chasing, the Liquigas boys are in force. Paolini, Garzelli and Quinziato are all handy sprinters from the green team.

14:50 CEST    122km/103km to go
The peloton reaches the feedzone at Bourgtheroulde, still in the dry, while the two in front get soaked by a thunderstorm.

14:52 CEST   
It begins to rain on the bunch as it hits the feed zone. Cretskens, on the front, signals furiously for two feed bags. Tankink takes them, and distributes one to Vasseur.

14:54 CEST    125km/100km to go
The leaders hold 8'34 on the bunch as everyone is getting drenched now. It's not that cold - 21 degrees - but it's hard riding in the rain. The bunch is still refuelling and collecting rain jackets, so the chase won't be on just yet. It's generally harder to chase in the rain, because you have to be so much more careful in the bunch than when there's just two of you in front.

14:56 CEST   
Chris Brewer, from thepaceline.com, has checked out the finale of the course today. "We just got done driving the last 100 kms of the course. The temperature is very nice - 22-23C with low clouds, but no real chance of rain [ok, that was a bit premature]. There's also no real challenges on the course today although right now there's a headwind into the finish line. The crowds are thick and enthusiastic all along the route. The last 5km are very flat and fast, and at 2km there's a right-left easy turn then 1700m of flat out racing to the line!"

14:58 CEST    127km/98km to go
Three Quick.Steppers in front of the bunch now, with Phonak taking over in the second rank. Boonen's yellow jersey is nowhere to be seen. They'll be hoping that this rain stops soon, as the gap is still 8'39. Vasseur is used to it, but probably not happy about it.

14:58 CEST   
Fortunately, it's now stopped raining on the lead pair, so perhaps it will be just a short storm.

15:02 CEST    129km/96km to go
The Quick.Step boys haven't bothered with rain jackets, even though it's absolutely hammering down on them now. It will stop soon.

O'Grady is towards the front, clad in his black CSC jacket.

The average speed after three hours is 41.5 km/h.

15:02 CEST    131km/94km to go
The leaders are now on the Côte de Saint-Grégoire-du-Vièvre (Cat. 4, 3.2 km at 3.4 %), the third climb of the day.

15:06 CEST    133km/92km to go
Schröder and Dumoulin work well on the wooded climb of the Côte de Saint-Grégoire-du-Vièvre. It's not so steep, so it shouldn't hurt too much.

Now the bunch is in the dry, and you'd never know it had been raining. Tankink back on the front, knocking the gap back to 8'19.

15:08 CEST    134.5km/90.5km to go
Schröder takes the points at the summit ahead of Dumoulin.

15:10 CEST    135km/90km to go
Time for part II of today's non-prizeworthy question [we're feeling generous this week]. Will this break be caught, and if so, at how many kilometres to go? Ken in NC, USA, reckons 50 km to go.

15:12 CEST   
Dave Zabriskie punctures and gets a wheel change. He's chasing on now, looking for cars in the caravan. He also got rid of his jacket when he got a new rear wheel.

15:13 CEST    137km/88km to go
Zabriskie gets some work done on his radio, but it's pretty messy and he has to stop. He gets another push, and is now going again. Now he'll have to ride a bit harder. He sees Phonak, tries to gain some draft. then Saunier Duval.

15:15 CEST    138km/87km to go
The Bouygues riders wind it up for the third place at the top of this climb, and Brochard leads out Pineau, who has De La Fuente on his wheel. Pineau gets it, although De La Fuente gave him a bit of a run there.

15:17 CEST    140km/85km to go
Pineau chats to De la Fuente as they wait for the bunch to catch up. Here they are again, with Quick.Step's Cretskens on the front.

15:21 CEST   
Meanwhile, the two leaders are at the second sprint in Saint-Georges-Du-Vievre.

Plenty of people are writing in with answers to the question "When will they be caught".

John from Jacksonville believes it will be at 8 km to go.

Mark from Ft Worth says 26 km to go.

O'Brien from Ohio says 23 km to go.

15:21 CEST   
Vansummeren attacks the peloton again in pursuit of the third place in the sprint. They let him go. That'll give the sprinters a chance to conserve their energy until the finish.

15:22 CEST    145km/80km to go
An FDJ rider is in pursuit of Vansummeren. Not sure who (or why).

15:25 CEST    146km/79km to go
Vansummeren takes third in the sprint and sits up. First and second in the Saint-Georges-Du-Vievre sprint went to Dumoulin and Schröder.

Dave from Atlanta, GA, says the break will be caught at 8 km to go, while Jeremy reckons 15 km to go. But Morten from Denmark reckons they will be caught with 943.51 meters to go. That's precision!

15:27 CEST   
No obvious cows so far, but plenty of horses watching the race. Bram Tankink leads the bunch with Vasseur, Garate, Cretskens, De Jongh and Boonen.

Julian Dean is riding with a heavily bandaged left leg, after his crash yesterday.

15:28 CEST   
Mark, from Norway, reckons that Quick.Step will not catch the break, in order to keep Boonen's yellow. But I'm guessing that Boonen wants a stage win.

15:30 CEST    148km/77km to go
Scott, from Houston, reckons 26.73475 km to go. Given the parallax error we get from measuring these distances from the Hindenberg V-1, I think we should limit it to one decimal place. So 26.7 km to go.

The gap is now 7'16. It hasn't come down that quickly recently.

15:31 CEST   
As if on cue, there are our cows for today. All clumped together, sheltering from the sun.

15:33 CEST    151km/74km to go
Boonen downs a small can of cola as he sits behind his five quick.Step teammates. Quick.Step is going to have to do most of the work today. Tankink is driving it now.

In the estimation of Sergio from the Basque Country, the breakaways will be caught at 7.4 km to go.

15:35 CEST   
Chris Horner is still suffering from his fall two days ago: "My hand is still very bad," the Davitaon-Lotto rider told Cyclingnews. "The two smaller fingers are not working so I can't hold the bars too well. That means you've got less braking power, and a lot less power when you're pulling up on the bars."

This year's Tour de France doesn't feature sections of Paris-Roubaix, which would be devastating for the fingers. "Yeah, that's right, I'm happy with that
because the shocks are really very painful. I need to avoid the holes, and the crashes of course."

15:36 CEST    155km/70km to go
Up front, Dumoulin has a determined look on his face. He certainly doesn't want to be caught, and with seven minutes with 70 km to go, they still have a chance. It depends whether any teams will help out Quick.Step.

15:38 CEST   
Speak of the devil, Davitamon has now put Christophe Brandt up the front to help out Quick.Step. The rear of the peloton is fairly stretched as the pace picks up.

15:41 CEST    156km/69km to go
Angela, from Londres, believes that the bunch will swamp the two gallant leaders at 12 km to go, and Hushovd will win the sprint. Quite a few people are picking 12 km to go, actually.

Schröder does a turn as they head through Bayvel. The last climb of the day is coming up: Côte du Boulay, 1.6 km at 4.8%.

15:42 CEST    158km/67km to go
The two leaders hit the climb, getting out of the saddle as it starts to hurt the legs a bit. But it's not too long, and they'll get relief at the top. It's sunny again, and there's no sign of any rain for the moment.

15:46 CEST    159km/66km to go
The gap is down to 6'10 as the chase pace increases. Quick.Step is still doing the bulk of the work, with Davitamon's Brandt stoking the fire as well.

Schröder leads Dumoulin to the summit, and takes the points. He's won three climbs today, giving him nine points. But Pineau is the mountains leader with 25 points.

15:50 CEST    163km/62km to go
James believes that "Jacky Durand will make a gallant escape attempt at kilometre 12 – a suicide break, if you will." He would have to possess someone in the peloton to do that. Maybe Dumoulin? They could both be called DuDu, and can you imagine Durand's power inside Dumoulin's small frame? A climbing sensation.

Speaking of climbing sensations, Brochard is getting ready to lead out Pineau for the final point on today's climb. No-one looks to be challenging them. Nope. Pineau gets it without anyone contesting. So he has 26 points.

15:52 CEST    164km/61km to go
The gap is down to about 5'40 at the summit. There is a traffic jam at the back of the bunch, and quite a few riders have to half. Voeckler and Moncoutié are bringing up the rear. Moncoutié hasn't been particularly active so far in the Tour, but I'm sure we'll see him later on.

15:53 CEST   
More bold predictions from our readers: Daniel from Nice thinks that Schröder and Dumoulin will be caught at 10.5 km to go, while Nick from South Africa says 4 km to go. We shall see...

15:57 CEST    167km/58km to go
JuanMa Garate does a turn now, keeping the tempo up in order to carve 1 minute per 10 km off the break's lead. It's possible to do more than that, but there's no point in burning your team. Boonen will have to rely on just a few of riders to lead him out again though: Tosatto, De Jongh and Pozzato will likely be saved for that. It's not your Petacchi train.

16:01 CEST    170km/55km to go
The bunch goes through Blangy-Le-Château, strung out by Quick.Step. The leaders are within five km of the day's final sprint at Pont-L'Evêque, where I boldly predict that Samuel Dumoulin will take the 6 points. 5'30.

16:03 CEST    172km/53km to go
Another reader question that has come up: Why are Discovery Channel wearing fluorescent yellow numbers? Answer: Because they lead the teams classification at the moment. Don't ask me why fluorescent yellow was chosen though.

Note: Garate is sporting Spanish champion stripes on his arms, as he won the race in 2005. There is in fact no Spanish champion this year. The race wasn't ridden because of a rider strike, protesting against the information that has come out in the media from Operacion Puerto.

16:05 CEST    174km/51km to go
Tankink back on the front, keeping the pace up as Boonen relieves himself on the bike.

James, from Wakarusa, USA, reckons that our two heroes will last until 1.7 km to go.

16:08 CEST    176km/49km to go
Dumoulin does take the sprint in Pont-L'Evêque ahead of Schröder. The French rider has taken all the sprints today, while the German has three of the four climbs. They get a big cheer as they turn right, then left, and head out of town. Adieu, Pont-L'Evêque.

16:09 CEST   
Tosatto rides up to his teammates and gives them bidons. Behind the Quick.Steps, Phonak and Rabobank are lurking, also Hushovd from Credit Agricole. He has basically given up his quest for green after yesterday's relegation.

16:11 CEST    178km/47km to go
And just as he did previously, Johan Vansummeren has attacked the bunch for third place in the sprint. He takes the final two points, uncontested. So none of the sprinters got any intermediate points today.

16:16 CEST    180km/45km to go
At the arriere de la peloton, we can see Isaac Galvez (Caisse d'Epargne) and at least five Saunier Duval riders. The bunch passes by another horse stud, 4'40 behind the two leaders.

Crash at the back involving the five Saunier Duval riders, although Galvez avoids it. Moncoutié is also in it, but not hurt. He takes some time to get going, but he's under way.

16:16 CEST    181km/44km to go
Tom Boonen was also back there, but it doesn't look like he was in the fall. Pozzato is pacing him back onto the bunch.

16:21 CEST    184km/41km to go
Credit Agricole has now put a rider at the front of the bunch, taking the pressure off Quick.Step a little. Boonen is back in the bunch. Moncoutié is not, but he has a rider helping him back, with Landaluze.

The leaders ride along a road lined by a high hedge.

16:23 CEST    185km/40km to go
The leaders are under 40 km to go. Brandt, Charteau and another CA rider, plus the Quick.Steppers, are combining to create a strong chase. Vansevenant is also up there. That gap is 4'21.

16:26 CEST    187km/38km to go
Moncoutié is finally back in the peloton. That was a tough chase.

Tom from Utah reckons that the break will be caught at 50 km to go, plus or minus 2 km. Even allowing for that margin of error, I'm afraid you're a bit wide of the mark there Tom. The leaders are still well out there and its 38 km to go. I realise that email is not always as instantaneous as we desire though...

16:27 CEST   
Perdiguero has some paper caught in his derailleur. He gets some assistance from the Phonak team car and it's gone.

16:31 CEST    189km/36km to go
Vansevenant does a hard turn now, with Brandt on his wheel. They'll have to up the tempo a bit, as the two leaders are still over four minutes ahead.

Moncoutié maybe back in the peloton, although it's more accurate to say that he's at the back of the peloton.

Floyd Landis is near the front, behind a teammate. He's been riding like this for most of this first week. Hincapie is also there.

16:33 CEST    192km/33km to go
3'53 with 33 km to go. It's looking good for a capture in the final 5 km. Schröder and Dumoulin are more interested in being captured after they cross the line, but the peloton seems to have other ides. The two leaders have upped their tempo a bit to match the chase behind, but they are losing time.

16:38 CEST    195km/30km to go
The peloton splits and reforms around a roundabout. Stuey O'Grady moves himself up front, maybe feeling like going for the sprint today. He's going well with a broken vertebra. It's mostly Davitamon and Credit Agricole working now, with Quick.Step sitting back a bit, protecting Boonen pronounced "Bo-nen" not "Boo-nen".

16:42 CEST    200km/25km to go
Charteau, Hinault, Vansevenant, and Brandt have got things rolling along at a nice pace, in pursuit of the two breakaways, who have been away since km 20. 25 km to go, and 2'54. They're going to need more than that.

16:44 CEST    202km/23km to go
Chadwick from the West Indies says that the break will be swallowed "as soon as my pathology class lets out for the day. So lets say approx under 5k (4.2K) to go. Quick.Step will play it out for the Boomin Boonen Express."

Thank you, and I think I'll call a moratorium on the "catch the break" guesses now, as we're now at the business end of the bike race.

16:45 CEST    203km/22km to go
Dumoulin has his head down, and looks to be working harder than Schröder.

Française des Jeux has invested some riders in the chase too. 2'38 is the difference.

16:47 CEST    205km/20km to go
It's Quick.Step working again now, lifting the tempo in hot pursuit of the leaders, who are now at 20 km to go. This has been a very long chase.

Discovery is well placed to the fore of the bunch, protecting big George Hincapie.

16:48 CEST    206km/19km to go
The peloton looks like a snake that's swallowed an elephant (or a hat, depending on your point of view), to use a Little Prince analogy. A short line at the front, then a big lump, then a long line at the back. Casar is at the wrong end of that long line.

16:50 CEST    207km/18km to go
Schröder is definitely working hard too in front. These riders want to make it to the finish, but they're fighting a very big and hungry peloton, which has not been sated by one elephant.

16:51 CEST    208.5km/16.5km to go
Dumoulin gets out of the saddle on a small false flat. Schröder comes through. Plenty of people are lining the roads in the last 20 km. It's still 2'06.

16:53 CEST    210km/15km to go
Egoi Martinez has crashed, it looks like. The red number from yesterday is down in the middle of the road, having clipped a wheel of the Euskaltel rider in front, who was trying to avoid an obstacle in the middle of the road. Dirk Demol is there with Martinez, and the race doctor.

16:54 CEST    210km/15km to go
Schröder encourages Dumoulin as they go under 15 km to go. You can dooo itttt!

The bunch is 1'48 back and chasing very hard.

16:55 CEST   
The road is pretty broad here, but everyone is fighting for position. Schröder looks the better of the two in front.

16:56 CEST   
The bunch passes a band playing "When the Saints go marching in", and so shall we...

16:56 CEST    213km/12km to go
The road is wide, but there are plenty of traffic islands. Schröder and Dumoulin are doing a great job to stay away, as Schröder's team director encourages him.

16:57 CEST    214km/11km to go
Schröder has been doing 59% of the work in the break, while Dumoulin only 41%. And Dumoulin is much shorter, so you have to allow for that I think.

16:58 CEST    214km/11km to go
Martinez is chasing again, getting some assistance from the race doctor. He's holding on to the car, but that is usually allowed. Just don't hit anything else...

Commesso is up the front now, and Rabobank. Odd. Now the Credit Agricole boys are back on the front, with Davitamon and Quick.Step.

16:59 CEST   
1'20 is the gap as the leaders ride up a false flat, getting close to 10 km to go.

17:00 CEST    215km/10km to go
The 10 km banner seems to take ages to get to, and the peloton is really motoring now. 1'08 and falling. If this continues, the break will last until about 2 km to go.

17:01 CEST    215km/10km to go
Schröder sits on the front of his seat, putting himself into the red to try to keep the break's chances alive. They're not dead yet!

17:02 CEST    216.5km/8.5km to go
Pozzato is working with Patxi Vila in the bunch, which means Quick.Step is running out of lead out men. Only De Jongh and Tosatto will be fresh enough. 50 seconds, 48 seconds...

17:03 CEST    217km/8km to go
The bunch swarms around more traffic islands, and there's nearly another crash.

17:04 CEST    218km/7km to go
Pozzato has done a massive turn, bringing it back to 40 seconds. This will be close, but the break is still in line to be caught. Boonen will have to ride a good sprint though to win. McEwen or Hushovd are his main rivals.

17:05 CEST    218.5km/6.5km to go
Now Vasseur and Cretskens do their last turns, with Pozzato driving through once more. Up front, the two leaders are holding their tempo well. 33 seconds.

17:06 CEST    219.5km/5.5km to go
Around a big roundabout, and the bunch strings out. The leaders are less than half a minute ahead, and although they're running out of road, it's still a long way. 20 seconds.

17:06 CEST    220km/5km to go
Pozzato has been the man responsible for bringing this back in the last 5 km. Tosatto and De Jongh are lining up to lead out Boonen.

O'Grady has flatted, and is chasing back on. Bad timing.

17:07 CEST   
16 seconds with 5 km to go. It's not enough.

17:07 CEST    221km/4km to go
Lampre has a vested interest in this sprint too, with Bennati close to the green.

Up front, Schröder looks at Dumoulin and urges him to keep going. They look back...

17:08 CEST    221.5km/3.5km to go
The peloton powers into Caen, hunting down these two breakaways, who have made it to under 4 km to go. Not much longer though.

17:09 CEST    222km/3km to go
Another crash - some riders go down in the middle, looks like Vansummeren. Frank Schleck (CSC). Also Julian Dean again and Peter Wrolich.

Schröder and Dumoulin are caught.

17:10 CEST   
Liquigas takes over in front, looking to lead out Garzelli. Bäckstedt does a big turn. Then Carlström.

17:10 CEST    223km/2km to go
An attack from a Milram rider, but it doesn't go far. Sacchi is the man. Carlström has his wheel. Boonen in seventh wheel behind Tosatto and De Jongh.

17:11 CEST    223.5km/1.5km to go
Boonen moves up to fifth inside 2 km. Where are the others? Two Liquigas riders, then two Quick.Steps and Boonen.

17:11 CEST    224km/1km to go
One of the Liquigas riders sprints at max, but Tosatto has his wheel. He swings off, and now Tosatto goes under 1 km to go.

17:12 CEST   
Tosatto has to do a long turn and its too long. Milram accelerates, De Jongh takes his wheel, then Boonen on the right side.

17:12 CEST    225km/0km to go
Steegmans gets to the front and does a huge lead out. McEwen on his wheel, then De Jongh up the left with Boonen on his wheel. Boonen and Freire go for it, and Freire gets it!

17:13 CEST   
Boonen keeps yellow. But he couldn't match Freire for speed. He did well to get through the traffic though.

17:14 CEST   
Iñaki Isasi third, now there's a surprise!

Frank Schleck rides across the line with O'Grady.

17:18 CEST   
Steegmans pulled off with about 250m to go, then Boonen went off De Jongh's wheel, but Freire was on his own on the right and produced a powerful sprint to win the stage. The trick today was timing: the headwind makes it difficult in a sprint.

Bennati missed out because he was involved in the crash with 2 km to go. And Galvez.

That's all for today. Catch you tomorrow in Lisieux!

Congrats to Jochem from The Netherlands (and quite a few others) for getting the question right ;)


1 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank                      5.18.50
2 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step-Innergetic                  
3 Inaki Isasi (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                     
4 David Kopp (Ger) Gerolsteiner                           
5 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                     
6 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre-Fondital                 
7 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole                      
8 Francisco Ventoso (Spa) Saunier Duval                   
9 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram                                 
10 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Francaise Des Jeux                
General classification after stage 5

1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step-Innergetic          25.10.51
2 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile                       0.13
3 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank                         0.17
4 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel                 
5 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole                  0.19                   

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