Tour de France 2019: Stage 6 – Breakmates Teuns gets the stage, Ciccone takes yellow

It was heralded as the hardest stage in the Tour de France this year (by Dan Martin, amongst others) with seven categorised climbs in 160km and it was predicted to separate the wheat from the chaff by the time they reached the summit of La Planche des Belles Filles. And while it took until that last climb to bring the GC group to life, there was plenty of fireworks once they did wake up. But it was a duo who had been out in the break all day who have their names written in the Tour’s history books tonight. Neck-and-neck until the flamme rouge and the gravelled climb to the finish, Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida) proved to be the strongest, leaving Trek-Segafredo’s Giulio Ciccone in his dust (literally), as he crossed the line. But Ciccone didn’t go away empty-handed, donning the maillot jaune at the end of the day.

Rider(s) of the Race

There wasn’t much between them on the way to the final kilometre so there’s no point in me trying to choose. Today’s Rider(s) of the Race goes to the breakaway duo who lasted the course and reaped some pretty hefty rewards. Dylan Teuns and Giulio Ciccone were two of 14 riders who went in the break (which included KOM leader Tim Wellens and his Lotto-Soudal teammate Thomas De Gendt) early in the stage and, not least because of a nonchalant peloton, they stayed out all day, losing the last of the breakaway companions with 4km to go.

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Once under the flamme rouge and onto the super-steep white road to the finish line (wasn’t it GREAT!?), Teuns proved stronger than Ciccone and won with what looked like slow-motion ease. Ciccone, who was in virtual yellow for almost the entire stage, came over the line looking devastated to have lost the stage and the Trek rider hung his head. But Ciccone’s collection of bonus seconds on the penultimate climb meant that he took the maillot jaune from Julian Alaphilippe’s shoulders by six seconds.

“The yellow jersey was my childhood dream. Today I made it come true. It’s a beautiful achievement. It’s hard to believe. My goal and our team’s goal was to win the stage. I was pissed off that I lost the stage win but when I realized that I had the yellow jersey, the feeling of anger passed straight away. It’s wonderful.”

Teuns had some extra emotion thrown into his stage win today:

“I didn’t expect to win here although I knew there was a chance for the breakaway to succeed today. I took my opportunity. In the second last climb, the four strongest came out from the breakaway. I knew Ciccone was the main guy. I’m so happy I finished it off. At the bottom of a climb, I saw my mum, my dad and my girlfriend. It brought me a lot of emotions.”

Strange peloton tactics

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One has to wonder what some of these teams were doing during this stage. With Alaphilippe in yellow, it was up to Deceuninck-QuickStep to set the pace for most of the day and, supposedly, to keep the break from getting too far out of reach. Well, they rode on the front, but they didn’t seem to mind the breakaway having its way across the mountains. Were they trying to get other teams to ride before the final climb? Did they think the breakers were going to break before the finish so they’d be assimilated before they became a real danger to yellow? Had they resigned themselves to losing the yellow jersey at the start of the race? Who knows! But as other teams didn’t put the hammer down until it was too late, Alaphilippe had to put in a gut-wrenching attack about 400m from the finish to try to save yellow. Which he couldn’t do.

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Movistar was one of the teams that decided to take up the front and they did do enough work to whittle the gap down quite significantly, but to what end, one wonders? Alejandro Valverde took up the pace setting on the final climb once the other Movistarlets exhausted themselves and even came back onto the front when he thought Ineos’ Michal Kwiatkowski wasn’t riding fast enough. But Ineos didn’t need to ride anyone down today so that tactic just allowed them to ride wheels until the final kilometre. Mikel Landa made an attempt at an attack, which didn’t get very far, but unsurprisingly Nairo Quintana didn’t take advantage of any of Valverde’s work and stayed clinging to the wheels of those in front of him.

Then there was Thibaut Pinot and his Groupama-FDJ team. He said before the stage that he had ridden this climb multiple times before the Tour because he wanted to win the stage. So why didn’t FDJ take up the pace setting earlier in the stage, when the break kept gaining minute after minute? One of the things I love about Pinot is often you don’t see him until he’s ready to attack, but surely someone in that team car should have ‘done the calculations’ so that he had a chance to win it? They only started riding in earnest in the last few kilometres of the climb and I don’t think fifth place was really what he had in mind at the start of the day …

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Ineos, on the other hand, played a blinder – as you would expect them to. They let it all happen without trying to control anything, which in its own way is a strange sort of control, forcing other teams to do the work. There was a question of where the super-domestiques were, as once they got to the sharp end of the race, it seemed that Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal were on their own (except for the appearance of Kwiatkowski). Did they know the team wasn’t up to setting their usual blistering pace, so they didn’t ride, or did they not ride and then realise the team might not have been up to supporting them (Wout Poels went out the back on the penultimate climb to not be seen again …)

Sitting in the catbird seat

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So other than Teuns and Ciccone, who were the big winners today? Well, Geraint Thomas threw down the gauntlet to all GC hopefuls, including his own teammate and co-leader Egan Bernal, by chasing after Julian Alaphilippe in the last kilometre to come in fourth on the stage. Bernal came in 12th.

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Even though Thibaut Pinot didn’t take the stage, he has definitely shown that he is in great form and that in the mountains, he is the Frenchman to keep your eye on. Once he started stomping on the pedals in earnest, his acceleration to fly past Alaphilippe to beat him to the finish line was impressive, to say the least. He is only 9sec down from Thomas in the GC standings.

I would also put Julian Alaphilippe in this category. Although he lost the maillot jaune today, his last-ditch effort that really looked like he was riding himself inside out was a sight to see. And that he stayed up in the front of the favourites group all day was more than many thought he was capable of. I really hope that he’ll have more chances to shine this Tour as his competitive spirit is a joy to watch.

Sitting at the back of the bus

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I don’t like the phrase ‘getting found out’ but today, there were some riders who were. Nairo Quintana and Mikel Landa – I don’t think I’ve ever seen two riders on such a strong team seem least likely to try anything (okay, Landa put in a half-hearted attack today but still …). I wonder what the Movistar dinner table is like after stages like this? Do the Movistarlets who ride hard all day to keep the guys in contention even talk to them after their inaction?

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Romain Bardet had a ‘mare of a stage, with a mechanical near the finish, losing time hand over fist – and then adding insult to injury by dropping his chain right on the finish line. Oh, Bedhead, our heart goes out to you.

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One of the most frequently asked questions at the start of this stage was: does Vincenzo Nibali have the form for a GC tilt or is he going to stage hunt? After today, we can safely say, he is now a stage hunter.

Stage Results – Top 5

1 Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida) 4:29:03

2 Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) +0:11

3 Xandro Meurisse (Wanty-Gobert) +1:05

4 Geraint Thomas (Ineos) +1:44

5 Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) +1:46

General Classification – Top 10

1 Guilio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) 23:14:55

2 Julian Alaphilippe (Decuninck-QuickStep) +0:06

3 Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida) +0:32

4 George Bennet (Jumbo-Visma) +0:47

5 Geraint Thomas (Ineos) +0:49

6 Egan Bernal (Ineos) +0:53

7 Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) +0:58

8 Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) +1:04

9 Michael Woods (EF Education First) +1:13

10 Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First) +1:15

All the jerseys

Maillot Jaune:  Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo)

Maillot Vert: Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe)

Maillot Blanc: Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo)

King of the Mountains: Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal)

For the full stage review, go to cyclingnews 

Header image: GETTY/Velo/Tim de Waele

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