After yesterday’s tough stage in the rain now comes an Alpine festival with a difficult summit finish. There will be some sore legs after yesterday’s warfare and the likes of Chris Froome and Tejay van Garderen will want to test Vincenzo Nibali’s grip on the yellow jersey.
Stage 6 Wrap: it was supposed to be a transition stage. These early climbs have featured before in the Tour de France and often been a battleground as riders fight to go clear, usually desperate riders and teams trying to salvage a late stage win. This time all the big names were in the mix with a series of attacks and counter-moves from the big names and all during a downpour that lasted for hours. It’s another exhibit for the case that medium mountain stages can provide better entertainment than high mountains where W/kg ratios trump surprise attacks.
After a maxi-breakaway packed with big names was reeled in by Team Sky Tony Martin and Vincenzo Nibali tried their luck, the Tour champion going solo for 20km. He was caught but tried again with Rui Costa, Tony Gallopin, Tony Martin and Alejandro Valverde. Behind it was too generous to talk of bunch, the group with Tejay van Garderen and Chris Froome and the other GC riders was a huddle of survivors. They chased but didn’t have the firepower to reel in the break and at one point Tinkoff-Saxo were roped into chase, presumably they weren’t defending Robert Kišerlovski’s 24th place overall but helping out BMC or maybe just chasing Vincenzo Nibali in their Astana rivalry.
Nibali had looked the strongest all day and attacked on the final climb but Rui Costa played it cool, rode across and ditched the Italian to win the stage. It was one of those days where the stage result was almost incidental. Rui Costa won but the race was turned upside down with Nibali assuming the race lead and the GC candidates coming in almost one by one.
The Route: 155km at 4,000m of vertical gain. The early flat section isn’t quite as flat as it looks as it rides through vineyards towards Albertville and the first climb of the day, the Col de Tamié. Just 900m high and a good way to start the climbing. The Col de la Forclaz next is a very irregular climb with a steep start, a steep middle section and a steep finish, all with some softer sections along the way and a downhill section before the summit. There’s a safe descent and then some main road riding to the next climb.
The Col de la Croix Fry is a quintessential Alpine climb with its meadows, chalets and some steep ramps. After a short descent there’s the Col des Aravis and then a long regular ride to Megève and Sallanches, the town where Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault won the worlds.
The Finish: the Côte des Amerands is the start of the final climb but a vertical shortcut rather than the main road. It’s tricky with 2.7km at 11.7% average but with a soft start and some flat sections meaning the rest of it is 14-15% in places and to make things worse it’s on a small and very rough road, a patchwork quilt with its mix of potholes and temporary repairs. As such this makes the climb to Le Bettex selective from the go before the main road to the ski resort begins. Then it’s 7km at 7.7%.
The Contenders:a difficult call because it’ll be hard to judge how riders feel after yesterday’s carnage. Racing in the rain and the effort of such a wild stage will have left its mark on many. An early break can use the Tamié and Forclaz combo to build up a lead but there are many open roads for the bunch to chase and Astana, Sky, BMC Racing and others will be keen to set up a set piece summit finish.
The summit finish is ideal for Chris Froome. He was aggressive on the final climb to Pra Loup and if he can replicate that again the stage win is there. He is 1.21 down on GC and making up time looks too much. We can expect Alejandro Valverde and Vincenzo Nibali to fight for GC now but their erratic performances don’t make them such a safe pick. Tejay van Garderen makes an interesting case now, just 42 seconds behind Nibali overall, will he be willing to attack from afar to make up time or pace himself for the stage win?
Otherwise Louis Meintjes, Simon Yates, Beñat Intxausti, Andrew Talansky were all close in Pra Loup. Romain Bardet won the other thanks to bravery but he can run the big names close on the final climb. Another name is Pierre Rolland wants to win this stage but how can he do it? He was 128th yesterday and no longer an overall threat so watch to see if he goes in the early breakaway and tries a long range raid. He is climbing well, he was ninth in Pra Loup.
|Tejay van Garderen, Pierre Rolland|
|Rui Costa, Nibali, S Yates, Inxausti, Talansky, Valverde|
Weather: sunshine and clouds with the risk of a thunderstorm. A top temperature of 23°C in the valleys.
TV: the race is back to the later schedule with the finish forecast for 4.40pm Euro time.
It’s an ASO race so you should find it on the same channel as you watch the Tour de France. It’s on Eurosport too and if all else fails you can rely on Cyclingfans and steephill.tv for links to feeds and streams.