A rare regular sprint finish, or at least as close as it gets because the final few hundred metres kick up. We should get another bunch sprint while Chris Froome gets a new and unwanted spell in the yellow jersey.
Stage 6 Review: the no-hope breakaway went clear with three wildcard teams? Three wildcard teams yes, only for once there was a big difference, instead of no-hope it was a good news story with as Daniel Teklehaimanot went clear collected enough points to take the mountains jersey. They were probably dancing on the streets of Eritrea last night. Curiously when he took the jersey in the Dauphiné his breakaway companion was the same, Europcar’s Perrig Quéméneur. For the bunch behind it was a calmer day, the sea breeze cooling the pack rather than raising the temperature and the race finished far behind schedule. Several riders finished well down – Majka, Basso, Porte, Kangert, Westra et al – presumably in economy mode ahead of the team time trial and mountain stages.
On the final climb of the Côte Sainte-Marie there was a tangle with Tony Martin drifting across Bryan Coquard’s wheel and then he collided with Warren Barguil and seem to slam on the ground as if he’d been karate chopped. Immediately Martin was seen doing the collarbone clutch, confirmed by an X-ray scan and he’s out of the race. Chris Froome gets the yellow jersey again and he won’t want this. Forget nonsense about curses, the rational reason is he simply doesn’t want to inherit the race lead because it means more demands on his time.
Which brings us to Zdeněk Štybar and his stage win, the success was almost anecdotal, a footnote to the day’s drama. Yet here was a fine win, he launched clear on the climb and behind nobody had a team mate to chase, prompting a stand-off. Peter Sagan collected his 14th second place in the Tour. He was lucky because Martin fell just behind him and they could have tangled.
The Route: the modest Côte de Canapville is the launchpad for the day’s breakaway. Used in Paris-Camembert it marks the start of a hilly early section and should let some riders get away. While most breakaways on terrain like this look futile, there’s a slightly better chance today. The big teams are tired of toiling and with calmer weather they’ll be less forceful on the front of the bunch. Still this is one of the few chances left for the sprinters so the odds are still firmly on a bunch sprint, if anything the day’s breakaway just has a greater chance of staying away for longer.
The rest of the stage doesn’t have too many features, there’s more and more woodland to provide more shelter. Look out for the big crowds as the race heads into Brittany where the sport is so popular. Expect Bretagne-Séché to be lively as they ride into their home region.
The Finish: Fougères is a small place and there a few roundabouts to negotiate on the approach road around town, part of which is downhill and therefore a crash risk because it elevates the speed. There’s a pinch point roundabout within the final kilometre and then a wide road until the line. It kicks up right before line with a 4% rise for the last 250m.
The Contenders: The uphill run to the line is perfect for Peter Sagan. As we saw in Amiens he was close to beating André Greipel. Now gravity is on his side as the slope will slow others a bit while he deploys his full force. If Štybar clipped away yesterday, today’s finish is too much of a high speed run to the line for a late attack to survive. So far so good but he’s proving adept at playing runner-up. It’ll be interesting to see how his bid for the green jersey plays out, he’s on 158 points to Greipel’s 161 and can expect to overhaul Greipel by scoring points on the hillier days. There’s also the team politics, we’ll see how his bid flourishes if Alberto Contador’s does not.
André Greipel is next and could well win. The bookmakers have him as the prime pick but I’m not sure they’ve checked out the uphill finishing line which suits Sagan more. Certainly the slope isn’t what he’d chose but he’ll be fine as it’s short. His sprint train is suffering from injuries which reduces his chance a touch too.
John Degenkolb is getting close to a win and apparently raging at the defeats. Here’s the perfect chance for him, in a pure speed contest he’s being beaten but the rise to the line is ideal. Mark Cavendish is at his most dangerous when he’s been written off and today is the chance to get that elusive stage win especially as he comes with fresh legs after finishing 52nd yesterday. His sprint in Stage 5 saw him just outridden by the rest and he’s far from the bankable certainty he once was.
Don’t rule out Arnaud Démare. He launched a strong sprint too early in Amiens after he got too excited by the sprint on home roads, excusable for a junior race but not ideal in the Tour de France. He’s won uphill sprints too. The same for Bryan Coquard, third yesterday but how he goes better today is hard to see unless fortune smiles on him. Alexander Kristoff looks out of sorts but he’s got the power while Edvald Boasson Hagen keeps lurking in the top-10 too.
|Peter Sagan, André Greipel|
|Kristoff, Cavendish, Démare, Boasson Hagen|
Weather: Sunny and warm with a top temperature of 27˚C. A light SE wind means a small crosswind but it’s not forecast to be much.
TV: the finish is for 5.20pm. Tune in for the final half hour for the rising tension as the sprint finish approaches.