Stage 6: Arpajon-sur-Cere – Montauban
190.5km Hilly Stage – Suited to sprinters
As predicted, an early breakaway managed to stay clear of the peloton as Greg Van Avermaet, the Belgian one day specialist, rode a superb race to take the stage victory and with it, the Maillot Jaune. Unfortunately Cummings & Polanc couldn’t get into the breakaway group but The Wolf is convinced we’ll see them in a breakaway at some point during the race, possibly on Stage 7.
Team Sky & Movistar controlled the pace of the peloton and as there were no real GC contenders in the breakaway group, they were happy for them to stay clear. The stage itself gave some indications on who is in form and who is struggling, with Alberto Contador & Vincenzo Nibali both struggling to keep up with the pace of the main GC group on some of the climbs. Contador lost a total of 33 seconds as he is clearly struggling to cope with injuries sustained on previous stages. For Nibali, who lost over 13 minutes, these are concerning times. His demeanour at the end of the stage was very strange, as he didn’t seem very bothered at all that he’d lost a huge chunk of time. Similarly, Nibali’s struggles will be a huge concern to Fabio Aru and his chances of a race win. Without his fellow Italian’s support in the big mountain stages, Aru stands no chance at all of even challenging for the race victory. Astana have big question marks to answer heading into the Pyrenees.
For Team Sky, and Chris Froome, the day was pretty much perfect. His team performed well, not a dominant as the pre-race predictions, but still good enough for now. The main thing for Froome is the fact that he isn’t yet defending the yellow jersey, meaning that the pressure on him, and his team, is off for the time being.
Onto Stage 6 and it’s one for the main sprinters. The parcours is quite lumpy but not hard enough to trouble any of the sprinters, especially given that the final 40km or so is very flat. Lotto Soudal, Etixx QuickStep and Dimension Data will be called on to control the peloton and get their fast men over the climbs safely so that they can contest the bunch sprint. The GC contenders should have a relatively easy day today, as they try to save their legs with the Tour heading into The Pyrenees for 3 huge mountain stages.
The Wolf expects an early breakaway to form, just like Stage 5, however unlike that stage, the sprinters teams will make a hard push to chase it down to give their fast men a chance to win the stage. This will bring the likes of Lotto Soudal and Etixx-QuickStep to the front of the peloton for most of the day. Expect to see BMC at the front too, as they will want to hold onto the yellow jersey for another day.
The sprint itself looks quite technical with a few roundabouts thrown in towards the finish. This should stretch the peloton and we could see a few riders trying to attack the likes of Kittel, Greipel & Cavendish for the stage win.
Kittel – $2.50
Coming off his big win on Stage 4, the big German will be very confident going into this stage. He looks quite short in the odds compared to Greipel & Cavendish but he is probably still the fastest man on paper and his team possess one of the best lead out trains in the peloton. The slightly downhill finish suits him a lot more than previous finishes and if he gets a full head of steam, he’ll be hard to beat.
Greipel – $5.00
Off the pace on Stage 4, Greipel will be looking to make amends here. He’ll be smarting from his mistake on Stage 3 and given that his Lotto Soudal are performing well, he has to be in contention for the win here. He has struggled this year to keep with his train, but if he stays on Henderson’s wheel and Kittel is behind him, he should have the power to finish it off.
Cavendish – $5.00
The Wolf is surprised by the odds on offer for Cavendish given his 2 previous stage wins. He has used his vast experience and knowhow to surf the right wheels and this technical finish probably suits him more than Greipel or Kittel. He’ll be taking great confidence into this stage, knowing that he has the speed to take on his main rivals. He’ll also know that one more stage win will take him past the great Bernard Hinault, into 2nd place of all time TDF stage wins, with only Edyy Merckx to catch.
Coquard – $10
Unlucky not to win on Stage 4, the young Frenchman will gain valuable experience from that result. He is lacking the power of the main sprinters, however his confidence will be up & he has ability to spring a surprise here. He has shown that he has the speed, it is just a matter of whether he can match Cavendish & Greipel when they really get going.
Groenewegen – $19
His 4th place finish on Stage 4 proves that he has the speed to keep up with the boy boys. He is probably the 4th fastest sprinter in the race but he is lacking a bit of experience when it comes to the crunch. He’ll be backing his team to position him well so that he can launch an attack. The Wolf is hoping that he has learned from previous stages and can take the right wheel.
Enger – $67
The Wolf liked this young Norwegian on Stage 4 and a 6th place finish on the stage shows that the talent is there to win this type of stage. He has been positioning himself at the front of the pack, something that usually takes a number of years to master. He might not be fast enough to beat the top sprinters in a head to head race but given the previous sprint finishes, he has the ability the spring a surprise here.