After six stages by the sea the race heads inland. There’s a different feel to this stage with more climbing but the real mountains are on the horizon with the Pyrenees tomorrow. For now a sprint finish is likely.
Stage 6 Review
The day started with the abandon of Jurgen Van den Broeck. A outsider for the podium, VDB is one of the sport’s mysteries because he’s capable of rivalling the very best in the sport yet I bet you know next to nothing about him. His media profile is stealthy to stay the least.
Talking of media coverage, Cofidis’ Luis Angel Maté went away at the start in the worst possible move. Why so bad? Well he was alone and on such a windy day it couldn’t last. But worse, he got caught just as the TV cameras started, denying millions the chance to see the Cofidis jersey.
The bunch was nervous in the crosswinds, there was a crash for Cavendish and it was a stressful day for the bunch… but many watching on TV just saw images of the bunch riding together. Instead of the crosswind we got a whirlwind sprint finish with André Greipel winning after being dropped into the perfect place by team mate Greg Henderson. Some space in the bunch saw time gaps, allowing Daryl Impey to take yellow.
Stage 7 Preview
- Km 80.0 – Col des 13 Vents (600 m) 6.9km at 5.6% – category 3
- Km 94.5 – Col de la Croix de Mounis (809 m) 6.7km at 6.5% – category 2
- Km 149.0 – Côte de la Quintaine 6.5km at 4% – category 3
- Km 171.0 – Côte de Teillet 2.6km at 5% – category 4
After six stages within reach of the sea, today’s 205.5km route heads inland and starts to climb. It’s best to view the stage in half. The first 100km is hilly and the Col des 13 Vents and Col de la Croix de Mounis are hard climbs with steeper slopes, a combo that can drop sprinters.
But the second half sees everything flatten out. The Côte de la Quintaine is long but steady, the road lifting from the valley below. It’s scenic, with rolling hills that have been picked clean of woodland, think Tuscany perhaps. This is the Pays de Cocagne, a land of plenty, full of postcard scenes of French rural life. Of course there’s no tourism for the Tour, the roads lend themselves to a bunch chase.
Some fast roads for the finish. The race thunders into Albi. It’ll be too frantic to notice but crossing the river Tarn is a scenic moment and marks 1800m to go. From here a near straight line and the finish on the outskirts of town.
A good day for a breakaway. With the right composition it could be given some room during the first 100km but Orica-Greenedge won’t surrender the yellow jersey without a chase.
Watch the GC contenders. Not because they’ll attack but to see how they rest and whether any have troubles. It’s also worth watching to see what Pierre Rolland does, is he targeting the GC or the polka-dot jersey? The Col de la Croix de Mounis could tell us more. But don’t expect big moves, there’s a long way to go.
The longer the stage goes on the flatter it gets. Yes the second half of the stage still includes some climbs but these are steady and so this should be a day for the sprinters, their last before a weekend in the Pyrennes. If it looks hilly for you then pick Peter Sagan but otherwise Mark Cavendish would be the obvious choice. He crashed yesterday, did plenty of work himself to get back to the bunch and later sprinted without much of a leadout. Expect full service this time to carry him to the finish.
Weather: hot and sunny with not much of a breeze.
TV: live coverage begins at 2.20pm Euro time, maybe just enough to catch any action on Col de la Croix de Mounis and time to survey the race. Otherwise tune in for the final 30 minutes with the finish expected after 5.10pm.
The finish town of Albi is a great place to visit and ride. It’s the home a large art museum dedicated to the town’s most famous son, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The artist painted scenes from Parisian life but he also worked as a commercial illustrator. His commissions coincided with cycling’s first golden age as bicycle technology started to offer affordable transport. As brands tried to launch themselves Toulouse-Lautrec played his part with illustrations for several ad campaigns.
The most clichéd image of the Tour de France has to be the bunch rolling past a field of sunflowers. It’s the kind of image that makes the front page of a newspaper on a slow news day. Only the late spring this year means crops are late and even in the south of France the flowers are slow to arrive. But today could be the day as it’s warm and full of fertile fields.