But what has stung the riders, and Wout van Aert in particular? The day after the cobbles and on the eve of the first summit finish, the 6th stage was to be a simple transition but the riders decided to make this day the longest (220km) one of the fastest in the history of the Tour, using a totally crazy scenario.
Yellow jersey on the back, van Aert was the most motivated to want to join the breakaway of the day. He eventually got there. But at what cost ! Taken back after 135 km of getaway, including 20 solo, the Belgian left his leader’s tunic to Tadej Pogacar, imperial on the heights of Longwy. The Slovenian won in an uphill sprint ahead of Michael Matthews and David Gaudu. A double blow in the form of a new punch on the table which does not bode well for his rivals before the Super Planche des Belles Filles.
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It was expected that the battle for the breakaway would be fierce. But not to this extent, not with such actors. The wind probably had a lot to do with it. Favorable throughout this Thursday, it took the runners to an average of 49.376 km/h and caused curbs in the very first kilometers. We thus saw Vingegaard, trapped, offer himself a long sprint to return to a first group which included Pogacar.
Everything ended up being back to normal but it took 80 kilometers for the peloton to finally let the good shot slip away. Its composition was unlikely: a yellow jersey (Van Aert), a general favorite (Jakob Fuglsang) and the youngest of the Tour (Quinn Simmons, 21).
Van Aert, a foil stroke
This trio had no chance against an organized peloton. Fuglsang finally understood this and got up, 65km from the goal. But not Van Aert. Stubborn, he continued even when Simmons got stuck (30k). And he ended up being seen again by the pack, 11km from the finish, when the mogul final had just started. Without strength, he was immediately unhooked. And finished the stage 7’28” behind.
The operation will not have been completely null and void for Van Aert since he offered himself, in the intermediate sprint, 20 additional points in the classification of the green jersey, a tunic which he will find on Friday on the 7th stage. The victory was in any case played without him, while on paper he was a favorite.
Worn out by the infernal pace of this day, the peloton lost weight at high speed on the Pulventeux coast (800m at 12.3%), the summit of which was located 5.4km from the finish. Pogacar placed a first acceleration, just to gauge his rivals. Alexis Vuillermoz (TotalEnergies) took advantage of a short downtime to take a few seconds lead. But the Jura was caught at the foot of the final climb of the Religious (1.6km at 5.8%).
Untenable, Van Aert (finally) manages to escape
Pogacar’s new demonstration
His teammates Majka and McNulty controlled, then Pogacar left the competition behind when he placed his start 200m from the line, after seeing Roglic launch the sprint. The latter, 9th in the stage, reassured himself after his shoulder dislocation suffered the day before. But, like the others, he could only see the manifest superiority of his compatriot. In general, Pogacar is four seconds ahead of Neilson Powless (EF), stunning 14th at Longwy the day after his breakaway on the cobblestones, and 31 over Vingegaard. Powless once again flirted with the yellow jersey. The American would have taken it without the 10 seconds of bonuses offered to Pogacar.
Third in the stage, Gaudu also took bonuses (4”) and moved up into the top 10 (10th), 1’01” behind Pogacar and one second behind another Frenchman, Romain Bardet (9th). The two Tricolores remain placed before the start of the mountain. Thibaut Pinot dropped him three minutes, now five minutes behind in the general standings and therefore finds himself in a position to take the breakaway on the road to his beloved Planche des Belles Filles on Friday.
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