Live pictures kick in with 80km to go. The break has 2min 58secs. It looks like the riders back in the bunch have been instructed to ensure this gap doesn’t balloon into something unmanageable, and the pace is pretty hot.
The peerless Marianne Vos.
The gap between break and peloton has been reduced to 3’05” by an acceleration in the bunch.
Iris Slappendel, on the famed Eurosport motorbike, brings us up to speed: “We had a really furious start until the break established. We have a break of four, they’re really nicely working together … it kind of calmed down. It’s a really nice day, a rolling course, a lot of head and left-side wind but not too hard … but also no Dutchie in the breakaway, so that’s a bit disappointing for me … Every day there are more and more people at the start, I couldn’t believe how many fans were there this morning, so that’s really cool.”
ICYMI, as we say on the internet, here is yesterday’s stage report:
The next significant milestone on today’s route is the category-four climb, the Côte de Gripport. The breakaway is now a smidgen under 20km from the summit of that climb, which is 1.3km in length with an average gradient of 5.3%.
Soon after that, there’s an intermediate sprint at Charmes, with 61.6km remaining on the route, and then there is a bonus point at Côte du Haut du Bois with 20.4km to go.
No live pictures from Eurosport yet …
Yesterday’s stage four prompted a renewal of the debate on whether gravel sections (or cobbles) have any place in multi-stage road races. Regardless of the finer points of that discussion, Marlen Reusser emerged from the peloton to win the stage solo, before the Tour de France Femmes riders began to size up the longest stage of this year’s race – today’s 175.6km trip from from Bar-le-Duc to Saint-Die-des-Vosges.
We join today’s marathon stage a couple of hours in – Emily Newsom (EF Education-Tibco-SVB) and Anya Louw (AG Insurance-NXTG) were early attackers, before being joined up front by Victoire Berteau (Cofidis) and Antri Christoforou (Human Powered Health) to form a four-rider break that currently has an advantage of 3mins 26 secs over the chasing peloton.
It was always a stage that looked good for a breakaway – will we see this one go to the finish? Or will the fast women such as Marianne Vos, the overall race leader, have another chance to battle for the stage win in Saint-Die-des-Vosges? Let’s see …