Andre Greipel broke his Tour de France duck with a strong sprint to take the win in Reims.
A chaotic run-in saw Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) puncture, and the sprinters chase down a late bid for glory by Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step). Once the Gorilla saw clear space his pure power kept him away from Katusha’s Alexander Kristoff in second and Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r La Mondiale) in third.
There was no change in the GC top ten, meaning Vincenzo Nibali retains the yellow jersey.
Not just another day at the office
You know what it’s like in the morning. You look at the stage profile, it’s categorised as flat, many riders will perhaps be looking for an easy day after the exertion and horror of the cobbles. It’s just another transition day, right? The break will go, the sprint teams will reel in them in and Bob’s your uncle: the fastest over the line wins.
Yes, to some extent that is the bare bones of what happened today. Except that it completely misses the point about these transition stages – they are never as easy or as uncomplicated as they first appear.
The weather is always an unpredictable factor. Today the parcours was made trickier and more slippery by rain, and there were many crashes as riders struggled to keep their bikes upright on the slick tarmac. Most were able to continue, but unfortunately some were not. Xabier Zandio (Sky), Egor Silin (Katusha) and Jesus Hernandez (Tinkoff-Saxo) all crashed and subsequently abandoned.
The long exposed ridge of Le Chemin des Dames subjected the riders to crosswinds of up to 30kph. Some teams such as OPQS and Tinkoff-Saxo know how to ride in these conditions, and very soon these masters of the echelon took control. The peloton fractured and, even though it reformed, riders and teams were caught out of position and had to work hard.
As if coping with the weather isn’t enough, there are also the technicalities of the route itself. Nine roundabouts and two 90 degree turns in the last 5km, followed by a long straight run to the finish line was always going to be nerve-wracking as the sprinter and GC teams both fought for position.
Then of course there is luck. Sometimes things just happen at the wrong time and there is nothing you can do. So it was for Kittel, who punctured on the run in, putting him out of the hunt for his fourth win.
So, next time you see the words transition stage, just pull up a chair and settle in for some exciting racing … maybe.
VeloVoices rider of the day
There was much written about Ji Cheng and his inclusion in the Giant-Shimano roster for the Tour. But from what I have seen so far he more than deserves his space. There is much more to write than the fact he is the first Chinese rider at the race. He is a beast of a rider, always seen at the front of the peloton doing the hard work of reeling the break in.
Stage 6 result
1. Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) 4:11:39
2. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) same time
3. Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r La Mondiale) s/t
4. Mark Renshaw (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) s/t
5. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) s/t
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 24:38:25
2. Jakob Fulgsang (Astana) +0:02
3. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) +0:44
4. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +0:50
5. Fabian Cancellara (Trek) +1:17
6. Jurgen van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) +1:45
7. Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) +s/t
8. Richie Porte (Sky) +1:54
9. Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) +2:05
10. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +2:11
Points leader: Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
King of the Mountains leader: Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis).
Best young rider: Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
Team classification: Astana.