The longest stage and possibly the longest day too. A sprint finish awaits, only with another uphill rise to the line.
Stage 6 Review: the early break went with no resistance from the peloton and quickly built up a decent lead with Dion Smith in the move, keen to regain the polka dot jersey. Quick Step split the peloton into three in crosswinds. Why? Because it’s what they do: dogs bark, fish swim and Quick Step exploit crosswinds. The only rider in real trouble was Primož Roglič and the sight of Lotto-Jumbo toiling to bring him back into contention suggests all the talk he’s not here for the overall classification may be a smokescreen.
Onto the final climb and Dan Martin put a decisive attack and behind the others hesitated. The likes of Richie Porte, Geraint Thomas and Adam Yates floated around at the front but none needed to bring back Martin. Pierre Latour took a flier but this time Martin was clear. For all their work earlier Quick Step got swamped with Alaphilippe lacking his usual jump and finishing “only” fourth.
Tom Dumoulin rode into Romain Bardet and both had a mechanical as a result. Bardet took Tony Gallopin’s bike but in chasing to get back lost time. Dumoulin fared worse, he got a wheel and chased but still lost 53 seconds and then copped a 20 second penalty for drafting behind his team car… while an earlier chase by Astana to get Jacob Fuglsang back in contention didn’t get a penalty. Why? It’s not down to a technical rule or anything else, according to this morning’s L’Equipe it’s because the UCI didn’t spot it. Chris Froome and Rigoberto Uràn lost a few seconds, a sign their fitness isn’t ok or just that they’re not too explosive? Probably the latter given both contributed plenty in the team time trial. Meanwhile a keen Geraint Thomas took a time bonus to get closer to the yellow jersey.
The Route: 231km and a start in Fougères near the birthplace of Albert Bouvet, the man who saved Paris-Roubaix. The races crosses the “Mancelles Alps”, a grand name for a small plateau that tops out around 220m above sea level but all the same the route isn’t as flat as the profile suggests.
The Finish: the race rides into Chartres which is notable given that these days the proliferation of street furniture means the Tour often avoids cities but here it exploits some big boulevards to sweep around town. The route crosses the Eure river within the final kilometre. The road rises, and more than the roadbook suggests, including 500m at 4% before easing to the finish line.
The Contenders: Another Fernando Gaviria (Quick Step) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) contest? Certainly pair have two stage wins each and stand to win more with a finish like this as both are sprinting so well and the climb to the line tilts the odds in their favour once more. Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) is good for a finish like this too while Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) might seem bulky but remember his sprint to win in Paris-Nice where Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) also featured but he’s still sore after a crash.
The pure sprinters wanting a pan flat finish can look forward to tomorrow’s stage but that’s slim pickings given the cobbles on Sunday and then a succession of climbing stages. Still André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) have both won uphill finishes like this in their pomp, the question is whether they can do it at the moment and they’re not reassuring picks, even less so Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Emirates). Finally what chance for Dylan Groenewegen (Lotto-Jumbo), he who has been boxed in many times this week but still can’t be discounted.
|Fernando Gaviria, Peter Sagan|
|André Greipel, Sonny Colbrelli|
Weather: warm and sunny with a top temperature of 27°C and with the heat the chance of a shower later in the stage too.
TV: live from the start at 12.05pm CEST with the finish forecast for 5.35pm CEST. By all means watch from the start to the end but surely a large share of the audience doing so is going to consist of people unable to reach the remote control, for example hospital patients in traction.