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Tour de France - Cycling: Stage five preview

The cobbles return to the Tour de France for the first time since 2018 on Wednesday and, after Wout van Aert's exploits on Tuesday, it could be Mathieu van der Poel's turn to light up the race.

The peloton will battle over 11 sections of pavé measuring around 19km and with top speeds likely to reach 60km/h, for some, the road to Arenberg will be about damage limitation.

John Degenkolb was the last winner when the Tour traversed over this type of Parcours and it might be another giant of the road who takes the honours on Wednesday.

Van Aert's late move on Tuesday showed just how strong he is and after three second placed finishes, the yellow jersey finally got a win at the 2022 Tour and will be looking for more on his favoured terrain on Wednesday.

However, for those with a slighter frame, this will be a nervous day that they will be desperate to get through without losing significant amounts of time to their rivals, with the bone-jarring nature of the cobbles requiring both power and concentration.

Stage five is classified as a 'hilly' day in the Tour manual and while it may not have the elevation of the stages in the Alpes and the Pyrenees, it could have just as big of a say on the final standings.

The 2022 Tour de France at bet365

Tour de France: The cobbles return

What

Tour de France, Stage Five

Where

Lille to Arenberg, France

When

12:35 UK Time

How to watch

Live on ITV4, Eurosport, Discovery+ & GCN+

Odds

Matthieu Van Der Poel 7/2, Wout Van Aert 9/2, Mads Pedersen 9/1, Matej Mohoric 12/1

Stage five route details

Starting in Lille, Wednesday's stage is 157km long and could be brutal from the start. Riding on cobbles is all about position, which means those hunting the victory will have to compete with the big teams looking to protect their riders.

Jostling at the front of the pack could cause crashes, while the ferocity of the racing means the lighter riders may struggle to keep up with the bigger men.

After a frantic start, the first of the 11 cobbled sections arrives after 79.7km and they then come thick and fast.

With the finish line almost within sight from the final cobbles, it will be a drag race between those who remain, or perhaps a lone rider who has managed to break free and is hanging on for everything as he bids to fend off the chasing peloton.

Although the wind is unlikely to blow significantly enough to impact the outcome, the cobbles are certain to have their say, with an ill-timed puncture the worry for all involved.

Three to watch

Mathieu van der Poel 7/2

Van der Poel endured a slow start to the season following the injury he suffered at the Tokyo Olympics but flew into the spring, winning both the Tour of Flanders and Dwars door Vlaanderen before taking the pink jersey for three stages at the Giro d'Italia.

The Dutchman took yellow on stage two of last year's race and said in the build-up to the 2022 Tour that he would be targeting these types of stages.

Those two wins in Flanders demonstrated his prowess on the cobbles and with Alpecin–Deceuninck colleague Jasper Philipsen unlikely to be looking for the win, the shackles will be off.

Van der Poel's reputation goes before him and he is sure to be in the mix.

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Wout van Aert 9/2

Van der Poel's great rival is, of course, Van Aert who showed on Tuesday what an amazing rider he is. He won a time-trial and then a sprint over consecutive days in 2021, can he double up again after his solo success?

The Belgian is another to have enjoyed plenty of one-day success this year, winning both Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and E3 Saxo Bank Classic in the spring.

It's no secret that Team Jumbo-Visma's aim for the Tour is to finally get a rider on the top step of the podium in Paris and, in a roundabout way, Van Aert blowing the peloton apart for a second straight day could suit them.

Both Primoz Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard will be protected on this stage but attack could prove the best form of defence on a day designed for carnage.

If Roglic and Vingegaard can hold Van Aert's wheel until the closing kilometres, something they couldn't do on Stage Four, they should make it home safely.

From there, their colleague can press on towards what could be another fine day out in yellow.

Dylan van Baarle 66/1

With the cobbles in play, look out for April's Paris-Roubaix winner Dylan van Baarle to make the push.

The Dutchman has improved dramatically since joining Ineos Grenadiers in 2018, starring individually in one-dayers and providing much-needed power as part of two Tour-winning teams.

Van Baarle, who was also second to Van der Poel in Flanders, has lost weight to improve in the mountains but is naturally strong on this type of terrain.

Like Van Aert, his team bosses may tell him to go for the stage, but on their terms, as he could be tasked with looking after Geraint Thomas.

However, Thomas was a fine one-day racer in his early career and lost just 36 seconds to the winner in 2018, meaning the Welshman will not fear this stage as much as some of the other overall contenders, including his colleague Daniel Martinez.

His Voorburg-born team-mate will have circled this day on his calendar and will have no qualms about heading off the front if given a licence to go for it.

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