Tour de France Stage 5

Another flat stage, another bunch sprint. The biggest surprise of the day for me was the news that Thor Hushovd had been “relegated” for improper actions in yesterday’s sprint. I’d watched it on TV and hadn’t seen anything irregular – he shifted sideways to avoid Dean’s crash, and squeezed somebody else against the barricades. Being “relegated” means that he didn’t receive any points at all for the day, which effectively puts him out of the running for the green jersey – the same thing happened to Robbie McEwan last year, although it was a lot more obvious why that one happened than this one, since McEwan was basically leaning on the other guy.

With Hushovd out of the race, his team didn’t really have any motivation to help the peleton catch back the break-away group, but they did step up near the end. I guess they were trying to get organized, but it appears that there is no dominant team the way Alessandro Petacchi’s team used to make the sprints so predictable in previous year’s Giros.

Out of the massive confusion at the finish, McEwan looked like he had a good lead-out but jumped too soon – he actually let up on the gas, and several people went past. Boonen was looking good, but Oscar Friere took a line up one side with no traffic in front of him, and sprinted for first place, with Boonen nearly a bike length behind. McEwen had to settle for 5th, and Hushovd for 7th.

No change in the GC, except Boonen’s time bonuses put him a few more seconds further ahead, and Freire’s put him tied for 3rd with Hincapie.

Boonen moves within one point of McEwan in the green jersey competition, but nothing is sure there. McEwan seems to have the form so far, but today was the first sign that Boonen still has the form he showed in the spring classics and the world championships.

Tomorrow’s stage is also flat and boring, but it’s the day before the first individual time trial, so the big GC teams will have no interest in chasing the break-aways preferring to rest up for Saturday. So we’ll have to see if the sprinters teams are strong enough to do all the work for driving the peleton or if a break-away succeeds.