Tour de France 2024 stage five preview - destined for a sprint

The second opportunity for the sprinters to go for glory

Date: Wednesday July 3, 2024
Distance: 177km
Start location: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne
Finish location: Saint-Vulbas
Start time: 13:20 CET
Finish time (approx): 17:16 CET

In the sixth century, three fingers said to be from the right hand of John the Baptist — and therefore of the hand that baptised Jesus Christ — were brought from Alexandria in Egypt to the small town in the Maurienne valley where today’s stage of the Tour de France sets off from. Although the validity of religious relics like this are always more than a little questionable, it continues to make the town (which derives its name of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne from it) a destination of pilgrimage, and is housed and worshipped in its 11th century cathedral, while also being referenced in the town’s coat of arms.

An analogy could be made between John the Baptist and whoever is in the yellow jersey at this point of the Tour. Just as he was initially heralded by many as the Son of God, only to instead by a precursor to Jesus Christ, the wearer of the yellow jersey this early into the race could merely be a false prophet, before the real champion makes himself known deeper into the second and third week. 

Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne is located at the edge of the Alps, and has thus been the host of many key mountain stages of recent Tours — most memorably, albeit now for the wrong reasons, in 2006, when Floyd Landis launched his miraculous comeback long-range solo attack to put himself back into contention for the yellow jersey he’d lost the day before, a performance literally too good to be true as he was disqualified for registering a positive dope test. But today the riders will be headed away from, rather than further into, the mountain range. At least, for now — they’ll return here again in two weeks having circled a substantial lap around the rest of the nation, where the climactic GC stages will take place. 

Instead, the riders will head in a northwesterly direction through the region of Savoy. We might have left Italy behind, but this is another region with historical ties to the nation; it’s the origin of the House of Savoy, which would ultimately hold the Italian crown following the nation’s unification in the 19th century. Prior to its move to Turin in 1563 (which was, incidentally, hosted Monday’s stage three finish), the House’s capital was in Chambéry, and the château that was the headquarters will surely be the subject of the obligatory helicopter shorts halfway into the stage. 

Those shots will be savoured by commentators looking for something to talk about today, as the terrain here is mostly flat throughout, with only a couple of category four climbs that should do nothing to prevent a bunch sprint in the finish at Saint-Vulbas. Although not previously used at the Tour de France, Saint-Vulbas has featured in other races, and Nacer Bouhanni has fond memories here having won stages at both Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour de l’Ain. The recently retired Bouhanni is an example of how big a leap it is even for prolific sprinters to win at this level — although he was good enough to win 70 races in his career, but never managed one at the Tour. Whichever sprinter wins today will be of the highest calibre.

Route profile sourced via ASO


The big favourite, Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) was unable to contest the race’s first sprint on stage three after being involved in a crash with two kilometres to go, but his team stated before the following stage that he had recovered well. If all is clear in the run-in to the finish line, Philipsen and his Alpecin team will want to ensure they secure this stage victory. Another rider prevented from being involved in the final sprint to the line due to the crash, however not involved, on stage three was Mark Cavendish (Astana Qazaqstan) and his teammates. On his quest for the record-breaking 35th stage win, the Manxman admitted that his team were not in the best of positions to contest the win, even if the crash hadn't happened. Cavendish still seems positive, however, and stage four looks like another chance for him to make history. 

Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty), nonetheless, has already made history in this race, becoming the first black African rider to win a stage at the Tour de France. He sprinted to a superb victory on stage three, proving that he is back to his winning form and will be a contender for the remaining sprint stages. Completing the podium was Movistar’s Fernando Gaviria and 22-year-old Arnaud De Lie (Lotto Dstny), both who are strong fast finishers, and therefore will be contenders for the expected bunch sprint in Saint-Vulbas. 

Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) has looked in good condition so far, just missing out on the podium on stage three and being very active in the opening of stage four. He certainly is a rider who packs a punch when it comes to the sprint and has proven he can beat the likes of Philipsen in the bunch sprint. Behind him was Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco Alula) who was in good position in the final 100 metres, but a moment with De Lie blocked his ability to sprint over the line. He'll be hoping for a better end to his race and a clear path to victory. 

After a rocky start in the brutal opening stages, Fabio Jakobsen (Team-DSM Ferminch PostNL) managed to secure seventh place in the first sprint. He took to Instagram stating that this was his “confidence builder”, so hopefully we will see the DSM rider place higher and higher in the sprints. Bryan Coquard (Cofidis), Sam Bennett (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale Team), and Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain-Victorious) all looked strong in the first sprint, so will be ones to watch for the stage victory.  

Stage five winner prediction

We're backing Jasper Philipsen for the sprint finish. He'll be even more determined to prove his sprint dominance once again after missing out on the first chance. 

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