Tour de France Stage 6 Preview

Two climbs at Mûr-de-Bretagne await, a lively stage finish and a test for the GC contenders.

Not a bang but a Quimper: a breakaway with Sylvain Chavanel was kept close by BMC who feared the Frenchman could take the yellow jersey. Chavanel had a team mate in Lilian Calmejane, normally a force of nature but beaten by Toms Skujiņš for the mountains jersey. Their battle for the jersey cost them energy and they were caught by the chasing bunch before the finish. The race in the peloton never caught fire, proving the French saying that “the race organisers can propose but it’s the peloton that disposes:: whatever the route, the riders decide. Later on plenty of teams were riding hard to place their riders but none of the big names tried anything, apparently the early pace set by BMC left a lot of people drained later in the stage. So Peter Sagan won his tenth stage to extend his lead in the points competition.

The Route: 181km across Brittany and all about the final climb. To get there plenty of small roads packed with big crowds. New for this year is the 19km finishing circuit, they tackle the Mûr-de-Bretagne climb twice. After entering the circuit the first time up the climb is the same approach as in 2011, the “direct” run-in as they ride straight into the climb.

It’s a long open road and not a particularly technical climb but climbing it twice will thin down the peloton and blunt the legs of some of the heavier riders, or rather this is what the likes of Quick Step need to do to advantage Julian Alaphilippe over Peter Sagan. Over the top and there’s the Bonus point which is on the same road, a long drag up.

The Finish: 2km at an average of 6.9% and this time approached from a side road meaning a sharp bend into the climb. But this isn’t an average climb, it’s got 500m at 10-12% before the 1km to go point and then the slope eases off to the line. It’s all on a wide road without anything technical. But it’s been a good test of fitness, witness the 2015 edition when the likes of Vincenzo Nibali and Romain Bardet were left trailing.

Peter Sagan

The Contenders: today should offer a replay of yesterday’s finish. Julian Alaphilippe (Quick Step) has the punch to get away on the climb but if Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) can match him on the steeper parts of the slope then the Slovak should prove the fastest in the sprint, especially as there’s forecast to be a headwind on the final climb, a light one but enough to make sitting on a wheel pay but the question for Sagan is whether there’s too much climbing in the finish, that the first ascent wears him out. Quick Step have to make tactical choices, how to use Philippe Gilbert for example, an early attack on the climb like the old days (as a decoy?) but Gilbert has a shot at the yellow jersey too and wants it.

Yesterday’s stage wasn’t hard enough for the likes of Dan Martin (UAE-Emirates) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) but they might be in with a chance here.

Julian Alaphilippe, Peter Sagan
Dan Martin, Alejandro Valverde
Colbrelli, Andersen, Nibali, Gilbert, Thomas, GVA

Weather: sunny and not as hot, just 25°C. A 15km/h wind from the north-east means a headwind in the finish.

TV: live from the start at 1.05pm CEST with the finish forecast for 5.30pm CEST. The riders should reach the finishing circuit at 5.00pm.

Language police: Mûr-de-Bretagne is a town, not the “wall of Brittany”. The Mur de Huy is what cycling calls the road known to locals as the Chemin des Chapelles for good reason because riding up is like scaling a wall. But today’s Mûr has a circumflex accent and is a place at the foot of the climb so the race finishes at Mûr-de-Bretagne rather on it. Confusingly since the Tour’s last finish the village Mûr-de-Bretagne has merged with a neighbouring municipality and the new entity is called Guerlédan. The actual climb is known to locals at the Côte de Menéhiez.


75 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 6 Preview”

  1. For all the talk about the reduction to 8 man teams hopefully leading to a less “controlled” race, the Tour thus far – 2X Sagan, 2X Gaviria and BMC winning the TTT – has been positively scripted.

    • I believe 8 riders per team is still too much. 7 probably best and invite two additional teams (which is not the case now, number of teams has been the same). This will mix up things further. More uncertainty in the equation=better racing. Look at most U23 or womens races, mostly done with teams of 6. They usually provide much more lively racing.

      • Perhaps. I know the Tours of Britain and Poland in recent years (among others) have had 6 man teams and it’s led to unpredictable and exciting racing, but the obvious rejoinder would be that these aren’t the strongest riders on each team lining out for a lesser even than a grand tour, so therefore one or more teams isn’t likely to be able to impose order on the race.

      • I was reflecting on this too the other day while watching the World Cup.

        Reducing the numbers in teams further could significantly disadvantage teams that lost riders early on. If the reduction was seen as desirable for interest, I pondered, would a limited ‘substitution’ system work in cycling? Up to two (say) riders could be replaced between stages for injury, or tactically. Naturally, substitutes would be unable to ‘join’ the GC race, but could certainly shake things up a bit. The team time could still be assessed by the cumulative time lost by the team in play…

        Perhaps its been considered before? I’d be interested to hear about the pros and cons it if it has.

      • I recall reading that the purpose of reducing teams to eight riders was due to rider safety–too many big crashes were happening because too many riders were fighting for the limited roadway space available.

        With regards to adding more teams to create more excitement: Which teams would you invite? We have 18 teams in the race now, but several of them will spend most of the race being completely invisible. When is the last time that a team won a TdF stage that wasn’t a World Tour team?

        • As long as you have enough riders to occupy the front of the bunch and others behind wanting to overtake it’ll be risky. The safety gains are two fold, one is that a smaller bunch still means a reduced chance of a crash by numbers. But the bigger gain is the bunch is smaller and so the police motorbikes and others are able to overtake it more quickly, they can get to one obstacle and warn the bunch as the race goes past and then overtake more easily again to get to the next potential risk.

  2. Interesting that in 2011 and 2015 the GC contenders were in the mix for the stage win. This year they climb the Mur twice but still no mention above of Quintana, Froome or Porte for stage honours…… Stage 5 showed that you can’t allow Sagan to come to the finish with the lead group if you wish to beat him. Those interested in the stage better nail him first time up.

    • I can’t see Quintana or Porte winning, but they should be close. Porte especially can be punchy for a climb like this but I suspect the main contenders are keen to watch each other rather than strike out, even if a win and the time bonus would do plenty for their moral.

    • Is the final Mur not that dissimilar from ‘Salmon Hill’ at Bergen, a tad longer and steeper perhaps?
      Sagan could be in contention for the win but you’d think he’ll be reasonably happy being in the final mix too?
      His consistency is just amazing. I love that Green Jersey with the WC bands added..

  3. I would have thought a touch too much gradient for Sagan today? I’ll be watching Valverde.., he’s had a 7th, then a 4th yesterday, both on stages not suited to him. But with Alaphilippe will be sniffing yellow should a great fight

  4. At least no more big crashes though it was a shame to see Michael Matthews leave the race. The stage was as predictable as any sprint stage. Even the scenery is getting a little on the repetitive side, seems like we have being looking at tourist shots of idyllic coves and islands forever , though that should change today as the race leaves the seaside behind. The pleasant summer weather (which shows no sign of changing) perhaps adds to the somewhat soporific feel to the race.

    I wonder how much effort the GC teams will be willing to put in today? I suspect not too much and we shall see something closely resembling the past few days.

    • There seemed to be some speculation as to whether Dumoulin had the same affliction as Matthews.

      Examining the GC at the moment he holds an enviable gap on his main rivals at this point in the race. The advantage he has gained over the course of these early stages make him a dark horse in this race.

      • I saw that too, it seemed odd that Michael Matthews was hit so suddenly by a debilitating virus. Perhaps it was food related, if so less chance of it being passed on to the other riders. TD is in a strong position, it would be a shame if he gets knocked out for non racing reasons.

    • Who knows maybe Bardet and Nibali try an attack over the top of the first Mûr ascent (whishful thinking perhaps but that’s what keeps them on the road and us before the screens right?)

  5. Who is to blame for the really lame graphics that fill the TV screen with useless “data” on relative speeds and other silliness? Does someone think this will capture the 5 second attention span of the social-media generation? Is Velon involved in this? Who can I shake my fist at?
    In fairness I’ll give the new-technology one CHAPEAU (or Chateau as someone wrote) as the video clip of Froome flying off the road was excellent. Not because it was Froome, but because it made it pretty clear how it happened.
    Vive LeTour!

    • Im probably younger than you are, I don’t mind showing some data but they are not showing the right things. If you show relative speeds of the break and peleton or chasers, show them at the same point. That the break is going faster while just over the top of a climb is trivial. The question is how much slower they were going when they were at the place where the peleton is now.

    • The speeds are not so interesting but the distance between groups of riders (usually the break and the bunch) often is, it often gives a better indication of how the gap is changing than just the time. There is lots of live data on the ASO website, you can track individual riders etc. I thought Dimension Data were involved in all this but I seem to remember reading (here?) that there is a French company behind the nuts and bolts of the information.

      • The speeds are there for the general public audience to show what sort of speeds the race is travelling at. Dimension Data sponsors this and coordinate things but the actual data sticks on the bikes from a French start-up called Hikob.

        • I wouldn’t mind the useless data if they didn’t slap it up there on a big block of color, relegating the actual racing to the tiny image in the corner. They’ve got it bass ackwards IMHO, but perhaps the data freaks are more interested in the numbers than the image of the actual racing, like the folks I see walking around in stunningly beautiful places while staring at a tiny computer screen in their hand?

    • You forget the most simple one, 2 cameras.. one on the break (5 mins) up the road, one on the bunch.. Distance to go graphic never changes whichever group you look at.

    • I partially agree – I hope they’re still in an developmental stage of working out what does and doesn’t work. Power stats on climbs seem pretty irrelevant given the role of changing gradient and weight, although I guess it’s more for the general audience to get a feel for how hard the riders are going (same with speed, as mentioned by INRNG). I’d personally like to see more graphics to show the relative position (and identity) of riders on the route (especially when a race breaks apart on a mountain or in a classic).

      • Exactly. How many of us have met someone who discovers we ride and their first question is not where you’ve ridden, what races you’ve done/won but “what’s the fastest you’ve ever ridden on your bike?”

        • I can say over 50+ years of cycling NOBODY has ever asked me that question. Most of the time it’s “Aren’t you afraid of being run over by a car/truck?” For the record the fastest I’ve ever gone is 100 kph and that only with a tailwind on a long descent. I did notice at those speeds the gyroscopic effects of the front wheel – changing direction at those speeds is mostly a suggestion rather than a distinct action.

          • The typical question I get is if it’s possible to do 150km on tartines and croissants. The answer being of course, if you’re 50. At half that age you can do 300km.

          • Ferdi – I guess that shows the difference between where you ride and where I ride, though in my case the questions are from fellow Americans about riding in the USA though plenty of ’em erroneously think Italian motorists are all crazy and out to get you. They can’t believe it when I tell them I feel much, much safer on the roads of Italy than pretty much anywhere I’ve ridden in the USA.

          • I’ve only ever been asked is along the lines of: “Why don’t you get the hell off the road!?” Which is more of a suggestion than a question, I guess.

  6. Yet another thrilling day of tight action coming it seems. Will Peter beat the skinny ones? Perhaps a day for Stephen Roche’s nephew? Can GVA keep the Golden Fleece? Can The GC guys stay out of trouble at the wrong time? Thx for the preview

  7. Jens Voigt on TV: “Mûr-de-Bretagne. For us Germans: it means ‘wall of Brittany'”. INRNG, thanks for the language advice (I anyway prefer the English Eurosport stream btw).

  8. This finish seems quite Amstel-like so I’d expect similar contenders at the finish – I’d therefore add Valgren to the mix if Astana let him, and possibly place Gilbert above Alaphilippe, especially as he seemed one of the strongest riders yesterday.

    • Yesterday was a funny one for Gilbert. It seems like he opened up early in function of Alaphilippe, noticed his teammate lost speed, accelerated a second time and still took third behind two accomplished fast finishers.

  9. All the focus is on the puncheurs but in 2011 Cadel Evans won, followed by Contador, Vinokourov, Uran and Frank Schleck with Wiggins and Basso a few seconds back. Gilbert and Hushovd managed to hold onto the front group but didn’t have anything left in the tank. In 2015 Vuillermoz won with Dan Martin and Valverde taking second and third. Sagan, Gallopin and GVA were close, but still pipped at the post by the climbers.

    Were the roads into Mur-de-Bretagne any harder on those races or are we overestimating the puncheurs chances this time around? Or are there just so many good puncheurs, on so many different teams, that it’ll shape the race differently?

    I wouldn’t argue against Sagan / Alaphillipe / Valverde but I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone like Roglic do the unexpected. Maybe even Ritchie Porte rekindling memories of Cadel Evans’ win and his own repeat performances on Willuga Hill. Froome was even in the mix last time, although I don’t think he has enough of a kick to win from the other climbers, let alone the likes of Sagan.

  10. Didn’t catch much of yesterday’s stage (damn work) but I was a bit puzzled by Sky’s tactics. Going hell for leather with Froome over the last few kilometres but Thomas, who would be most likely to benefit, didn’t seem interested. Although he came in something like 14th he looked more like a spectator than someone at the front end of a sprint.

    • I think that’s Thomas’s achilles heel – no final punch to beat a group in a finish – and maybe why he’s focusing on stage racing rather than one day-ers

    • I think the tactics were twofold – keep Froome and Thomas out of trouble, and test the rivals in case gaps opened up in the finish. I don’t think they were going for the win.

      • As Anon says, I’m pretty sure Sky had no interest in the win, it just narrowed off in the finale and got a bit technical at the start of the climb so they wanted to string the field out, ensure they had a clean run into the climb and didn’t get gapped.

    • my thoughts exactly… I thought it was a big honour to get in a TdF break etc etc… even when one of the non WT teams misses it they don’t seem that bothered to chase…

    • It couldn’t be because the radio-controlled peloton, along with the DS in the car with the TV are instantly informed the escapees are non-important riders who will never stay away, could it?
      Chopping the teams down to 8 instead of 9 isn’t going to spice up the racing…bring back “the fog of war” and make the riders figure things out for themselves until the DS can drive up and yell out the car window.

      • To be honest, they haven’t even waited for the fog of war to descend. Everybody at the front of the peloton probably knows who’s in the break before their DSs do, they’ve been going so easily!

        • Nick – I’m trying to be positive in my own way rather than going on about the TdF formula, especially in the 1st week, but there does seem to be a bit of JRA going on. It’s kind of funny when folks go on about the more lumpy profile will make for a more entertaining show, but in reality you could really turn on the TV with just a few kms to go and see pretty much all that happened even on stages like today. LeTour seems to be a victim of a lot of “racing not to lose” rather than real attacks and panache. I hope the 2nd and 3rd weeks might be more exciting and less formulaic..LeTour deserves this! Vive LeTour!

          • OK Larry, I’ll bite. Which of the stages we have seen so far was one where a GC contender had a genuine opportunity for a “real attack” with “panache”?

            You can’t blame the riders for something that wasn’t possible in the first place. This is as true of a Nibali (who I thought might attack yesterday) as a Dumoulin (who is Mr law of averages) on the course we’ve had so far. If no one attacks on stage 9 then you may have a point but this first 9 days was largely about survival alone and it seems the riders agree.

  11. As polarizing as Peter Sagan is for some people, his racing tactics and his instincts have gotten much better and much more lethal over the past two years. We are almost taking it for granted now how well placed he finds himself at the end of every stage, making every split in the middle of the race, avoiding crashes, knowing which wheel to follow, and when to lead it out.

    He’s not even a pure sprinter, but he’s there with the best of them on the flat stages, then he’s the prime pick for hilly stages when Gaviria and Groenwegen’s names aren’t even mentioned. It’s pretty remarkable.

    • In what sense is he polarising though?

      It seems to me that he realises that Gaviria is quicker in a flat one-to-one but there’s no way that Gaviria can meaningfully compete in the Green Jersey competition at present?

  12. The standings on Le Tour’s website show a 20 penalty for Dumoulin in Stage 6. Was this for following the cars too close, or taking a sticky bottle while he was chasing back after his puncture?

    • The chat I was in during the stage speculated on whether Diesel Tom would take a penalty for that gratuitous drafting. Anything to help the sadly lagging Bardet eh Monsieur Commissaire?

      • This annoys me. Director (TV, not sportive) stays on you, you get 20 secs. If he pans away , you don’t get diddly. We all saw what he did, he had no choice, peleton was full gas, he was never going to get back on, if the cameras don’t stay on him, he loses 30 odd secs anyway but not an extra 20. So we’re in the situation where the TV coverage could potentially decide the outcome of the race.
        Let’s ignore names/nationalities for the sake of argument, but it’s not a good look.

      • Wow, that’s a gratuitous Bardet criticism even by your low standards. TD being docked 20 seconds is no more good news for Bardet than it is for any other GC rider.

        • It’s all about trolling. He knews that the commissaires aren’t French, but that doesn’t prevent him from assuming, if they give TD a penalty, it has to be about France and Bardet. So lame….I only missed the obligatory Nibali Etna mention in his remark.

  13. The talk now is that social media posts would count as well. So even if the TV Director did not beam in on you, some fan with a mobile phone would. Which means it is unlikely for anybody to get away with it.

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