After the “rest day” in the Armchairtifosi.com Intermediate Sprints Competition, enforced by the delights of the Team Time Trial, hostilities resumed on Stage 4. It was somewhat annoying to see that ASO had decided to have the official Intermediate Sprint at the exact halfway point of the stage, clearly copying my idea. I was forced to move my deciding point back to the village of Vay (122km to go) and as the 4 breakaway riders rolled past the church of Notre Dame (Brittany seems to share with East Anglia the phenomenon of tiny villages being dominated by massive churches) it was Direct Energie’s Jerome Cousin who scooped the 3 pts. Added to his 1 pt for 3rd place on stage 1, this made him the new leader and stretched his team’s lead too. Mention must be made of Team Cofidis’s appalling tactics – with 2 riders in the break they could have played the old one-two and collected the win, but neither Dimitri Claes or Anthony Perez seemed interested in contesting the sprint. To be fair, neither did Cousin nor 2nd placed Guillaume van Keirsbulck (Wanty Groupe Goubert) but it was good to see Cousin doing more than his share of pace-setting, unlike his memorable Paris-Nice stage win in France, when he treated Katusha’s Nils Pollitt to a masterclass in wheel-sucking before nutting him on the line.
Direct Energie’s domination continued on stage 5, with the evergreen Sylvain Chavanel notching up his second win and taking a clear lead in the competition, while his team moved on to a grand total of 10 pts. Just to mix things up a bit I had combined my sprint point with the summit of the day’s first categorised climb, the Cat 4 Cote de Kaliforn, and the 7 man break who’d led from the opening kilometres were surprised when Chavanel jumped clear on the gentle slopes to open up a twenty-five second lead at the top. He forged on alone until recaptured with about 60 km to go – he hadn’t scored enough points to take the polka dot jersey, but the Chateau D’Ax (virtual) jersey will be his for several days.
ARMCHAIRTIFOSI.COM INTERMEDIATE SPRINTS STANDINGS AFTER STAGE 5 –
1st- SYLVAIN CHAVANEL(FR)(Direct Energie) 6pts; 2nd-Jerome Cousin(FR)(Direct Energie) 4pts; 3rd-Kevin Ledanois(FR)(Fortuneo Samsic) 3pts
TEAMS- DIRECT ENERGIE 10pts; 2nd-Wanty Groupe- Goubert 4 pts; 3rd- Fortuneo-Samsic and Quick Step Floors 3 pts