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2011 Tour De France, Stage Five Preview: Levi Leipheimer & Race Favorites Look To Conserve Energy

The fifth stage of the 2011 Tour De France will feature two cities hosting stages for the first time. The 164 1/2 kilometer stage rolls entirely through Brittany, starting in Carhaix and ending in Cap Frehel. This is the penultimate northwestern stage, after which the peloton will cycle through the heart of France. The stage is somewhat similar to stage four in that it is fairly hilly. The difference is that the hills are a bit more downward sloping, which should benefit the sprinters. There are some slight climbs but nothing that should cause problems for the sprinters.

The cyclists will spend the final 70 kilometers of the stage riding along the northwest coast of France. While it will make for some great views, it could also mean a stiff wind coming in off the water. If that's the case we could see a split in the peloton similar to what we saw on Monday going across the Saint-Nazaire bridge.

Santa Rosa's Levi Leipheimer and Team Radio Shack will likely use this stage to again hang close but not necessarily overly exert himself. Riding against the wind can be as difficult as riding up a hill and can result in the peloton splitting if the front end is pulling hard. If a general classification rider like Leipheimer gets caught in the back end of the field he could lose time from anyone who managed to hang in the front of the peloton.

The cyclists face the longest stage of the Tour on Thursday when they travel 226 1/2 kilometers from Dinan to Lisieux. This is followed by the second longest stage of the Tour, 218 klicks from Le Mans to Châteauroux. Given how much effort will be required on those two stages, as well as the eventual Alps climbs, it makes sense for the riders to save their energy for now.

We'll be here for the entire race providing news updates and stage previews and recaps, particularly as they relate to Bay Area cyclist Levi Leipheimer. For more in-depth discussion on the 2011 Tour De France, head over to Podium Cafe. For more general Tour coverage, head over to the SB Nation story stream.