Crowds began to gather in Saint-Die-Des-Vosges several hours before the start of Wednesday's stage 5 at 13:25 CET, to set eyes on the world’s best cyclists as they set off on a 175-kilometre route through the rolling hills of Alsace.
The name on most French fans' lips – Julian Alaphilippe, the 27-year-old former cyclo-cross world champion, who has emerged as the early hero in the 21-stage Tour de France.
Alaphilippe is the first Frenchman in five years to wear the yellow jersey – and the first in eight years to keep it for a second day.
“I’m so happy to spend the day in yellow. My team did a good job helping me all day, and then Elia won the stage,” Alaphilippe told reporters in the city of Nancy on Tuesday.
Alaphilippe’s Italian teammate Elia Viviani won the sprint finish to help Deceuninck Quick-Step rise up the team rankings to third place after Jumbo – Visma and UAE Team Emirates.
“As you have seen we’re all for one. So thanks to all the team especially those who pulled away from kilometre-0," Viviani said of his team’s efforts. "They are the ones behind the scenes but they do the most work.”
Alaphilippe retains a 20-second lead going into stage 5 due to his exceptional climb two days earlier.
All hail Alsace
Wednesday's stage will glide through the heart of Alsace in the east of France best known for its Riesling wines and pretzels.
The first 44 kilometres is mainly flat and with just four moderate climbs during the entire route, it is perfect for cyclo-cross riders such as Slovakia's Peter Sagan, who thrives in rolling terrain.
Today is Sagan’s fourth day wearing the green jersey for accumulating the most points during the sprints – and he's edging closer to a record-breaking seven days in row.
A small but colourful contingent of Slovakian fans await Sagan's arrival at the finish line in Colmar, a medieval city known as Little Venice for its colourful houses on the banks of the River Lauch.
But the vast majority of spectators are routing for the yellow jersey, Alaphilippe.