Le Tour de France of 2011 is made up of no less than 21 full stages (sometimes it's 20 of them and one prologue, a time trial of under 8 km) and getting to stage five is no major milestone.
But this rather short trek in Britanny is interesting because of the fact that much of its second half takes place on the coast of the Atlantic and this means that a phenomenon called “echelons” might make an appearance.
Echelons form when strong winds assault the peloton and one team or more take advantage and push the pace hard, splitting the mass of riders in the hope of catching one or more of the favorites at the back, unable to bridge the resulting gap.
The phenomenon is rare and the conditions must be just right, but echelons have injected some excitement into The Tour when they popped up, most recently in the 2009 tour.
I have not seen true echelons form since playing the Pro Cycling Manager series and it makes sense for them to be omitted given their relative rarity.
After playing the entire stage, I can say that this the sprints are closer to the real thing than in PCM 2010 and that can make the game more interesting but also harder for gamers.
If you watch the video below, you can see how well the HTC train which brings Cavendish in position works and, even though I try to set up my own three rider train, with Montfort and Cancellara giving lead outs for Benatti, I have pretty much no chance and have to settle for second spot while seeing my hopes for the Green jersey largely fade away.
In a better simulation, I would have expected to see my Yellow Jersey wearer berate me, as manager, after the stage for making him to lead out work, but in the realm of human interaction the simulations will likely never reach perfection.