A seemingly benign stage finished with contrasting emotions for Etixx-Quick Step. Joy for victor Zdenek Stybar, who judged his efforts to perfection to power away from the other sprinters in the last 500 metres. Tears for teammate and race leader Tony Martin, who locked wheels and fell heavily on the final ramp, breaking his collarbone.
Rider Team of the day
I’m giving the award to Etixx-Quick Step, whose collective actions today in both victory and adversity embodied so much of what is great about the sport of cycling.
Stybar, the former cyclo-cross world champion, profited from the hesitation and crash-induced confusion on the final ramp to jump away from the other sprinters and solo across the line, arms aloft, to record his first grand tour victory in his maiden Tour de France.
He was completely unaware that his elation would be countered by despair as Martin had clipped a wheel and fallen heavily, injuring his collarbone. He remounted but needed to be guided across the line by his teammates.
This is why I love this sport #TDF2015 #tdf #OurWay nothing else like it pic.twitter.com/0GagP8daJk
— Maxi Lopez (@max_wardley) 9 Juillet 2015
Juan Antonio Flecha interviewed a visibly emotional Mark Cavendish after the stage. He was too choked to talk and rode off to check on his injured teammate, busy ignoring his injuries and congratulating the stage winner.
Class! @tonymartin85 goes immediately to @zdenekstybar, congratulating him. Styby’s first participation & first victory! #OurWay #TDF2015
— Etixx – Quick-Step (@Etixx_QuickStep) 9 Juillet 2015
Four things we noticed
1. Another African record. In the Criterium du Dauphine, Daniel Teklehaimanot became the first African rider to win and hold a King of the Mountains jersey (or indeed any jersey) in a WorldTour race. He was clearly intent today on repeating that feat. He was part of the three-man break along with Kenneth Vanbilsen (Cofidis) and Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar), the latter of whom had also been in the break on stages two and four. Tekli set his stall out early and took all three single points available on the day’s three cat 4 climbs, which allowed him to overhaul jersey wearer Joaquim Rodriguez. There was a little bit of banter between Tekli and Vanbilsen and one couldn’t help but speculate whether they’d initially agreed to share the points, Whatever, the Cofidis man decided that discretion was the better part of valour and allowed the African to take the final point, the jersey and enter into the history books.
2. Unpredictable. In the hours of discussion which preceded the finish, no one but no one predicted the stage winner. Much was made of the ambitions and abilities of both Peter Sagan and Alexander Kristoff – picked by Eurosport’s expert Juan Antonio Flecha in his Juan’s to Watch. At one point it appeared as if there was any number of candidates for victory on what looked to be a stage (finally) following the script. The non-threatening early three-man break given its head, before being slowly reeled back in by the combined efforts of Lotto-Soudal and Giant-Alpecin, allowing sufficient time to set up their sprinters and for the GC teams to mass to conquer the final obstacle of the day.
3. The sun’s back. Given 47% of viewers watch the Tour not for the cycling but for the scenery, the weather today cooperated and bathed the rolling Normandy countryside in gentle sunshine. There were Normande cattle lazily chewing grass and ignoring the on-bike action. Or should that be inaction? The peloton pottered along at the genteel pace of a French cycling club Sunday ride, enjoying the warmer temperatures after two torrid days of rain, until the final stretch.
4. Peter Sagan really is getting closer. He’s had a magnificent start to this year’s Tour and is sitting pretty in the jersey of the best young rider. In the pre-Tour Tinkoff-Saxo press conference, he said his primary duty would be to look after Alberto Contador as the maillot jaune – and Giro/Tour double – was the team’s primary objective. He’s acquitted himself with honour and, as a consequence, been well placed to contest rather than win the sprints. He’s now three points behind the green jersey holder Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and that stage win, like last year, may or may not happen. However #4Peter, his fourth consecutive green jersey is looking increasingly likely.
Stage 6 result
1. Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quick Step) 4:53:46
2. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) +0:02
3. Bryan Coquard (Europcar) same time
4. John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) s/t
5. Greg van Avermaet (BMC) s/t
1. Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) 22:13:24
2. Chris Froome (Sky) +0:12
3. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) +0:25
4. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) +0:27
5. Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) +0:38
6. Greg van Avermaet (BMC) +0:40
7. Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick Step) +0:46
8. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) +0:48
9. Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quick Step) +1:04
10. Geraint Thomas (Sky) +1:15
Points leader: Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal).
King of the Mountains leader: Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka).
Best young rider: Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo).
Team classification: BMC.
Link: Official race website
Header image: Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quickstep) wins his first Tour de France stage.