The longest stage of the race, today’s a stage interlude and the first real dragstrip finish of this year’s race.
Stage 6 Review: a strong breakaway and soon it became apparent that only Deceuninck-Quickstep were interested in chasing. The move established a good lead, especially since half of Alaphilippe’s team aren’t climbers and instead have their eye on today’s stage. The result was the breakaway stayed away with satisfaction for plenty: Dylan Teuns getting his biggest ever win, Giulio Ciccone in yellow (just and the intermediate time bonus clinched it), Tim Wellens harvesting more mountains points and Xandro Meurisse and his Wanty-Gobert probably delighted with third place. Another satisfaction was the Super Planche finish itself, yes it meant the fireworks started later but the dust clouds were spectacular and there was something voyeuristic looking at the riders in the final 25 metres as they tried to keep their legs turning and the wheels moving. Deceuninck-Quickstep might be kicking themselves at losing the yellow jersey – Alaphilippe was shouting “why, why didn’t they ride” – but with only six seconds difference, it’s spectators and viewers who gain as we’ll see a battle this weekend across the Massif central.
Among the GC contenders Geraint Thomas had the fastest ascent thanks to a late surge on the gravel and he’s now on the front foot with question marks about his form and leadership receding. Thibaut Pinot left his jump until later and almost closed the gap. Mikel Landa attacked early and was reeled in but lost no time on the final ramp. The losers were Vincenzo Nibali (51s lost to Thomas), Romain Bardet (1m9s) and Alejandro Valverde (1m19s).
How much to extrapolate from yesterday’s performances? What’s obvious is we saw a big cast of characters finish within seconds of each other rather than scattered over the mountain. Some of the more fragile contenders who might have lost time like Richie Porte, Jacob Fuglsang and Dan Martin are right there alongside plenty of others. Thomas and Pinot impressed the most, Thomas for going clear and Pinot for his move too but particularly because he went late, this was clinical and he didn’t get carried away on home roads. Alaphilippe is also strong but his challenge is the high mountains. Buchmann is climbing well too. Ineos collectively didn’t look as strong, Movistar set the pace and only Michał Kwiatkowski was alongside Thomas and Bernal for the final climb.
The Route: the longest stage of the race, 230km in two parts. The first half is hilly and twisting, the second much flatter with long straight roads which roll up and down slightly.
The Finish: they cross the Sâone river with 7.5km to go and can almost see the finish on their left but there’s a loop around town, all on a big wide road for the sprint train dragsters. Just after 3km to go there’s a pinchpoint before a right hand turn. Next a near U-turn with 1.6km to go and then it’s flat on the same road alongside the Sâone to the finish where there’s a slight bump upwards to the line in the final 100m.
- If anyone gets déjà-vu it’s because the final three kilometres are the same as Stage 3 of Paris-Nice in 2017 but then there was small bridge with 400m to go whose hump disrupted some of sprinters and Sam Bennett won. This time the hump is the finish line, a tiny rise up to the line.
The Contenders: Elia Viviani is the prime pick this time, he’s won already and with help from his Deceuninck-Quickstep team which looks more solid than the Lotto-Soudal train so Caleb Ewan has his work cut out. Once again Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Lotto) completes the trio of obvious picks and in his own words he’s “not yet 100%”. Alexander Kristoff (UAE Emirates) as the outside pick as he’ll be close and so will Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) could win with a bike throw on the uphill lunge to the line.
|Caleb Ewan, Dylan Groenewegen|
Yellow story: In 1949 Belgium’s Norbert Callens won Stage 3 of the Tour de France and took the overall lead, the high point of a modest career… but he never got to wear the jersey. Why? Accounts differ: one says that the driver of the truck carrying the jersey to the finish that day didn’t think it would change shoulders so he drove straight to the next stage without stopping by the finish; the other that Callen’s soigneur packed his bags the next morning and drove off with the yellow jersey in the luggage. Either way it left Callens sans maillot jaune. A journalist wearing yellow knitwear took pity on Callens and loaned him the garment for the moment but it was a poor substitute at best. Things were corrected belatedly with a special podium ceremony in 1994 for Callens, who later died in 2005.
Weather: warm and sunny, 29°C at the finish and a 20km/h headwind for most of the stage.
TV: the stage starts at 11.20am CEST and finish is forecast for 5.05pm CEST / Euro time. A long day and quite possibly the shortest set of video highlights later. Some parts are scenic but you could still tune in late to see Arbois around 2.45pm, the town sits below the Jura mountains and is famous for its distinctive wines as well as the home of Louis Pasteur. If not the late intermediate sprint is at 4.15pm.