So much talk before the start of the 2015 Tour de France was focused on a handful of stages at the very beginning: the chances of wind blowing the race wide open on stage two, the challenge of the steep Mur de Huy finish of stage three and, of course, the notorious cobbles on stage four.
Those stages definitely lived up to their billing as they delivered four different yellow jersey-wearers in the four days of the race – and now it’s tempting to dismiss the next few days as merely a preamble to the real hostilities in the Pyrenees.
That certainly isn’t the case for the sprint contenders, however, with a number of opportunities for the fastmen to grab prestigious stage wins on their way to the mountains.
The likes of Mark Cavendish, Andre Greipel and Peter Sagan will be looking hungrily towards stages five, six and seven, which will have a huge bearing on which rider eventually claims the green jersey in Paris.
Stage eight’s hilltop finish on Mur de Bretagne, however, will likely be contested by the big dogs of the general classification. The likes of Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali may look to edge closer to the race lead after a disappointing opening to this year’s Tour.
Then comes one of the idiosyncrasies of this year’s race: the 28km team time trial into Plumelec, Brittany. The hilly route would be a significant factor in any edition of the Tour, but this year, coming so unusually late in the race, it has the potential to open up huge time gaps.
Orica-GreenEdge, for example, lost two riders to the huge crash on stage three, and any more withdrawals heading into the team time trial could leave them struggling to post a competitive time.
Who said this year’s race was all about the mountains…?