The 2016 Tour de France is finally climbing. Stage 5's detour through the Massif Central won't fool anyone into thinking it's the Pyrenees or the Alps, but after four days of flat lands even a toe-dip into the mountains will feel like a plunge. And because the gradients aren't too severe, a large swath of riders will be in contention for the stage win. Unfortunately for everyone else, no one may be better suited to the terrain than current yellow jersey wearer, Peter Sagan.
The stage is another long one: 216 kilometers from Limoges to Le Lioran. Racing will begin at approximately 5:35 a.m. ET. NBCSN will begin coverage at 7:30 a.m., cutting out much of the fluff before the main attraction: The climb up to Pas de Peyrol, the foothills of which begin a little more than 130 kilometers into the stage. The 5.4-kilometer ascent is rated as Podium Cafe's 22nd-hardest climb of this year's Tour -- not a decisive distance, but certainly a change from status quo. At an average gradient of 8.1 percent, it won't be easy.
Riders will start the ascent after about 30 kilometers of steadier climbing, which means their legs should be well broken in. The break will have a good chance to go the distance, assuming no one of much importance is in it. The stage has seven categorized climbs, which means that Jasper Stuyven's reign as the King of the Mountains could be coming to an end.
Stage 5 is a tease, but it's a good tease -- a bit of inconsequential fun right before Chris Froome and company turn all the attention on themselves. It may not mean anything in the long run, but as a one-off mid-Tour classic, it should make for some good morning viewing.
Tour de France coverage for Stage 5 on Wednesday
Start time: 5:35 a.m. ET (approx.)
Route: 216 kilometers from Limoges to Le Lioran
TV: NBCSN, beginning at 7:30 a.m. ET
Streaming: NBC Sports Gold (subscription required)