Tour de France Stage 6 Preview

The second day in the Pyrenees and the first summit finish of the race, of sorts.

Pyrenean peripeteia: a GC contender winning the stage seemed improbable because the breakaway was likely to stay away. Only Jai Hindley won the stage because he went in the early breakaway, David Gaudu saw him and said it was as if Hindley had “caught a wave”, he surfed his way into the breakaway of 36 riders. Jumbo-Visma had numbers up front with three, UAE had two and Pogačar’s team let the move get four minutes before chasing hard to bring it back, recalling riders to contribute.

The breakaway was too big to work together and various riders tried moves but often as if to build up a buffer ahead of the Marie Blanque rather than striking out to win the stage. On this final climb of the day Felix Gall and Jai Hindley got to work and seemed to have a shared interest in working together but Hindley was too strong, and rather than being an ally for the road down to the finish Gall probably began to look like baggage to him.

Jumbo-Visma got to work on the climb, briefly collecting Wout van Aert on his way back from the front group. Soon Sep Kuss was pulling with only Vingegaard and Pogačar on his wheel and suddenly his Danish boss attacked. This was the predicted scenario turned upside down, Vingegaard isn’t waiting for the long climbs, he’s on the attack and hustling for any time he can get while Pogačar was stuck on just the kind of climb that ought to suit him.

Embed from Getty Images

As Hindley held on for the win, Vingegaard caught the chasers and told them he wouldn’t sprint for second if they worked with him but he was left to pull for himself and yet managed to pull out even more time on Pogačar on the way to the finish.

It’s premature to pick the stage as a highlight of the year but there was a lot going on. The obvious question is whether Vingegaard’s going to romp off into the sunset with the yellow jersey. On the basis of yesterday he’ll certainly be even more confident and UAE have their work cut out to find a fault to exploit, but it’ll be wet today in the Pyrenees. For now Hindley’s in yellow and that suits him, and also Jumbo-Visma who will be confident their leader can take on Hindley. Beyond the top step of the podium there’s now a lot going, the Dane might be atop the hierarchy but below him things look more like anarchy.

The Route: 144.9km and 3,800m of vertical gain, a short stage with plenty of climbing. It’s out of Tarbes, the industrial town of the Pyrenees and to Capvern with the first climb of the day behind the spa town, small compared to what’s to come but sustained enough to help the break form. Then it’s up the Neste valley for the Col d’Aspin, climbed from the east side this is the harder flank before a fast descent to the foot of the Col du Tourmalet.

The Tourmalet is used so often it’s familiar but still can’t be underestimated, it’s a giant climb that’s hard from start to finish, there’s almost no respite on this side via La Mongie.

The descent to Luz and then the valley road to Pierrefitte where the road to Cauteret starts. It looks like a summit finish but it’s in two parts, a main road up the valley with an old railway/tram track alongside, a clue to the gradient, in cycling terms it’s a big ring climb especially for the Tour peloton with plenty of 3-4% sections but some steeper parts midway.

The Finish: once in Cauterets there’s the turning on the right for the road up to the Cambasque ski station, it’s a change of chainring here and sharp summit finish, 5km at 7% but with 10-11% ramps.

The Contenders: the breakaway has a good chance today, plenty of riders can take the stage without threatening the GC riders including the yellow jersey.

Neilson Powless (EF) sat out the breakaway yesterday, now he can try to get the polka dot jersey back. Victor Lafay (Cofidis) had a go yesterday only to go backwards, he is erratic but is he now on the slide after a magic opening weekend or not, he’s suited to the final climb at least. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) would be a popular pick but he’s only four minutes down on GC, he’s not a priority to shut down immediately but won’t get much room and as we’ve seen he’s not sizzling either, the same for several outside picks, GC bids have come unstuck but they’re not yet eliminated from this race, think Mikel Landa at three minutes, Egan Bernal at four.

Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) is still a safe pick, he can continue the job he started yesterday where even a short sharp climb can allow him to take more time but Jumbo-Visma might be perfectly happy to have Hindley in yellow right now. What if yesterday was just a jours sans for Tadej Pogačar (UAE)? Unlikely although he’s been better than the rest on Pike Bidea and the Jaizkibel, the answer awaits us today, he’s just hard to pick as a winner as in a straight contest at his best, well Vingegaard is looking more incisive.

Powless, Pinot, Teuns, Ciccone, Zimmerman

Weather: 21°C in the valleys at most but and a good chance of a downpour or thunderstorm and cooler in the clouds and rain.

TV: KM0 is at 1.25pm and the finish is forecast for 5.10pm CEST. The Aspin starts about 2.55pm, the Tourmalet about 3.30pm but there will be action right from the start.

64 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 6 Preview”

  1. UAE were already spending far too much effort trying to bring back the break – with little obvious effect and all for a lot of grimacing. Even before yesterday’s finale, Vingegaard was the obvious GC favourite and his team would surely have pulled if the break had been allowed out to six or seven minutes by UAE.

    And, as IR said, the GC top ten looks like a zone for drama and surprise: Gaudu, Skjelmose, Yates *2, Hindley, Rodriguez, Woods, Bardet, Pidcock and more.

    • UAE were already spending far too much effort….five days ago. The result might have been similar, we’ll never know, but I wonder how Pogacar individually and UAE collectively would respond to Vingegaard and Hindley yesterday if they’d allowed themselves a more conservative approach during the opening weekend.

      What now for Pogacar? The 2018 Giro showed that even Chris Froome could be “forgotten” to the extent that possibilities for a long range move later in the race opened up. Does Pogacar have the nerve or personality to “hide” and limit his losses until the final week, hoping that his legs come alive for a turntable attack when Vingegaards monster form (inevitably?) fades?

      • Interestingly, he certainly has the legs but not necessarily the patience. On the other hand, I wonder whether it was necessity or “time biding” that lead to Froome’s Finestre win. After all, he did win a sensational mountain stage and then shipped time earlier on in the race.

        • But isn’t WvA the reason UAE had to do the chasing, leaving Vingegaard ready to attack..?

          Hindley getting in the break obscured JVs tactical move to pressure the whole of UAE.

          • They weren’t worried about WvA taking the lead I’m sure, but having him, Laporte & Benoot in the break may well have helped JV play the “we can’t help chase, we’re short of manpower” card

    • Burning matches in frustration for not having won yet?
      I imagine TJV thought Ving might benefit from riders up the road if he attacked, but UAE closed it down too much for that.

      • Vingegaard said they had hoped to have riders at the top of the final climb to help him in the valley, but that they (Vingegaaard, Kuss, et al) ended up going too fast and caught them on the way up…

  2. An unexpectedly interesting day, for all his adventure Tadej Pogacer does not look like the rider who dominated the roads of Flanders during the spring. Its only the first week of the Tour and its just one day but the way he was left behind and lost more time did not look good. This does not seem to be a Chris Froome Giro 2018 type scenario. His team were also a mess, maybe a bit of bad luck with an ill timed puncture but that has to be dealt with. No way Team Sky would have let that sort of break go.

    I wonder if Wout van Aert is not in quite as good form as last year or maybe not quite as motivated. The tactic of him charging off up the road worked really well last year not so much yesterday. It seemed its main effect was to give a free ride to Jai Hindley. Maybe JV & UAE were spending too much time looking at each other and missed the real threat.

    Jai Hindley and his team did really well, he is a genuine contender here. The team are strong, maybe more motivated and united than some others? Jai Hindley has experience of what it takes to win (and lose!) a GT. Jonas Vingegaard must remain favourite but this is turning into a somewhat different race than many predicted.

    There will be another big fight to get in the break today, can Bora do a better policing job than the teams yesterday?

  3. Or perhaps Pogačar is riding into the race? Vingegaard is coming in hot off the Dauphine. We saw what happened in the Giro… Perhaps he’s keeping his powder dry for week 3?

    • It’s his only option and is young/talented enough, but he’s not exactly been taking it steady in the finales, time will tell. But I think Vingegaard will always have the measure of him in the high mountains.

    • I would say Vin is probably the best climber in terms of pure potential, Pog being more allrounder. But the gap is not big and the form curve of both can cross along 3 weeks. It would not be the 1st time that a rider that is dominant in the 1st week is not so in the 3rd week. Pog might also « improve ».

    • Ciccone has said that he thought the gap to Hindley was smaller. He thought he had a bigger chance for the stage win.
      The Trek Director Sportive told Ciccone the gap was too big, and they didn’t wan’t Ciccone to pull for JV, as it would make the gap in the GC between fellow Trek rider Skjelmose and JV bigger

  4. I thought the stage today would be a stalemate, but perhaps now Vingegaard will try and make more time whilst Pogačar looks vulnerable. If so Hindley may be able to hang on as the climbs will suit. Hopefully another interesting stage.

  5. Happy to see podium candidates trying other things than follow until that they are dropped by the 2 big guns.
    But I am a bit surprised that UAE let so big a group with such riders go away.

        • I did watch the British champs the other day and it was interesting how they kept talking all the time, it’s a different style to say, France TV/Sporza/RAI etc where they’re happy to sit back at times and let the pictures or scenery talk for a moment.

          • I think part of the problem (particularly for the UK coverage) is that sitting back and letting the pictures speak works well for live coverage, but not for the highlights package which is how the majority watch the race.

            So this is probably an issue with the producer/director needing a flow of commentary rather than it being solely a commentator problem.

          • And then the highlights package is missing crucial sections of the race.

            Yesterday’s Eurosport/GCN highlights devoted many minutes to the final descent, and almost nothing to where Jai split from the break, and Jonas got away from his bunch, inc Pog.

          • I wish they were more like baseball commentators–or like the baseball commentators used to be on local TV. Harry Kalas, the voice of the Phillies for decades, barely spoke. You would hear the sounds of the park, and then, “The windup, delivery……that ball is out of here!” Then silence after a bit of conversation… “Hamels winds up…”…

        • Indeed and it seems to me that its becoming more common for them to completely miss or ignore important moments in the race while they tell anecdotes. I sometimes switch to GCN+ ambient sound only option for a break, especially when a certain marmite commentator takes a turn. Its nice to be able to hear more of the crowd noise, kids cheering, applause etc and I find I notice certain things more visually eg the delighted and astonished looks on fans faces as their favourite rider passes right next to them. Most of the time the graphics are enough to know what is happening and if not I glance at PCS.

      • Thanks for all responses, yes that’s what I’ve been doing.

        It seems that there isn’t live radio coverage so will keep ‘listening’ to GCN.

  6. If it wasn’t for Vingegaard, we might all be saying that Hindley can take this all the way to Paris. So he should ride as if he was doing that and hope that Vingegaard falters, if not he looks very good for the podium. They both went deep yesterday, although Hindley looked remarkably fresh at the finish, so will be inetersting to see how they respond today, that will tell us a lot about the next two weeks.

    • A lot of people talking up Hindley. I think this is the result of having such a tough stage so early on (and poor UAE tactics) that has allowed him into yellow. 30 or so riders finished with 3 minutes of him despite having a lead of four minutes at one time.

    • Agree, we shouldn’t forget how Jai Hindley won the Giro, impossible to compare with riders who weren’t there but would Jonas Vingegaard or Tadej Pogacer have done any better on that final climb? We the exception of Sepp Kuss (and that is a big exception) I think the Bora team is as good as the JV one when it comes to a mountainous GT like this one. Jonas V has an advantage in TTs but not sure how relevant that is here.

  7. Just curious, the commentators for NBC were saying the onus was on UAE to ride in the chase group for most of yesterday’s stage. Many others I heard or talked to said the same thing. But why would people say there was an onus on UAE to ride, rather than, say Jumbo? Both teams had peeps in the big breakaway, both were threatened by Hindlay, and both Pogs and Vings were in the chase group while Hindlay was up the road. UAE, wrongly in my estimation, may have chosen to lead the chase, but I don’t see why they were “forced” to lead the chase. TIA for any thoughts.

  8. A couple things I was keeping in mind were – The talk a few years back was Pogačar’s unique ability to recover and quickly. And then the amount of effort Vingegaard was spending on this move. At one point I thought Pog might have decided to let Jonas bury himself, conserve some energy and hit back later. Maybe today with these big climbs. Too, I think it will suit Pogs style to attack from behind and less so Jonas’s style to defend up front. Then with Hindley in the mix and we got ourselves a Tour.

  9. I much prefer the “old” static climb profile pics to this interactive ****.
    On mobile devices it’s even worse, makes scrolling hard.
    Why the change? Do you feel it’s better? I know I am complaining about something minor, while the preview is a GEM everyday.

  10. Thanks for the analysis Inrng, what an interesting tour this is turning out to be.

    Even today, JV is showing some bizarre tactics, and my only hope is Pogacar’s team learns from this, rests and saves their energy so Tadej can blow this race up in week 3.

    • Pog’s wrist appears to be healing but I don’t think the parcours favours him over Ving in the last week, especially the Col de Loze, but who knows at this point? Seems like it’s just whoever’s on the better day. It’s been so eventful thus far, I’d be OK with a let down and some GC drudgery for a while.

      • Sorry, IMHO nothing has changed. Someone watching with me even noted the man’s cadaverous look….with zero prompting from me. Perhaps I dozed off during the display of “class and panache” you refer to?

  11. Ok, we have us a bike race now! Eager to see Sundays stage finishing atop Puy de Dome. As always, things can be difficult to predict… especially the future.

  12. Some thoughts on Bernal. Looks like miracles don’t happen and this Tour is a bit too early for him (Horner’s take was that the effects of 2022 crash is over and he’s paying for misfortunes earlier in the season).

    It looks like the goal had always been the Vuelta per his “I was planning to go on holiday now” comment. And Ineos pulled him in probably out of desperation and not enough trust in Rodriguez.

    They (at least CN) are running the line of Bernal can use the Tour to prepare for Vuelta. I wonder if that is the optimal way though? Would she be cooked even if he‘s riding domestique duty?

Comments are closed.