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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, July 2, 2021

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2020 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

The audiobook version of The Story of the Tour de France, Volume 1 is available.

Never underestimate the power of human stupidity. - Robert A. Heinlein


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Tour de France stage six team reports

We posted the report from the race organizer with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Mark Cavendish's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

On the day the Tour de France turned 118 years old, Mark Cavendish continued his resurgence and delivered another vintage sprint, capturing his 32nd victory at the race and his third in Châteauroux, the town where he scored his first ever Le Tour win back in 2008.

The Manxman relied again on a fantastic Deceuninck – Quick-Step team who worked ceaselessly on the front from the moment the breakaway was formed and later into the stage benefitted from another masterful lead-out before hitting out with 150 meters to go and bursting clear of the other favourites and stomping his authority just like he did in Fougères, two days ago.

Mark Cavendish

The stage is Mark Cavendish's. Sirotti photo

With both hands placed on his head, just like the previous times he won in Châteauroux (2008 and 2011), Cavendish crossed the line a bike-length clear of the riders who completed the podium, celebrating his 50th Grand Tour stage victory – a massive achievement for the 36-year-old, who even at this age continues to show the same unbridled passion, commitment and desire that have fuelled his career ever since turning pro.

“The boys worked hard the entire day and did a phenomenal job, and I can’t be grateful enough to them for how much they buried themselves. The finale was full gas, reminiscent of the one ten years ago, when we went so fast in the last ten kilometers that almost I was at the limit. The wind was coming from the right and I was on the left side, so I waited for a split second longer in the wheels before opening my sprint. To win again at the Tour, where there’s an incredible group of sprinters, is just beautiful and I am super happy”, an over-the-moon Mark said at the press conference.

Cavendish also heaped praise onto his teammates after securing another memorable win, which extended his lead in the green jersey classification: “Tim was again formidable, keeping the stage under control, while Dries, Mattia and Kasper made sure of bringing back the two strong escapees before Julian put in another huge effort in the last couple of kilometers. All I had to do from then on was stay in the wheel of Ballero and Michael, who remained cool as a cucumber, and do my sprint. I can’t tell you how thankful I am to this amazing group of guys. Tim asked me after the stage if I’m in the form of my life, but the truth is that I’m in the team of my life.”

Here's the report from fourth-place Arnaud Démare's Groupama-FDJ team:

Finally. In the third sprint of the Tour de France on Thursday, Arnaud Démare was finally able to join the fight for the stage victory. It was not all easy, however, as his teammates had to take their responsibilities early on to stop a very dangerous breakaway. The former French champion then lost his lead-out man Jacopo Guarnieri with three kilometres to go. Despite imperfect circumstances, Démare managed to take 4th on the day, but will obviously aim much higher after the Alps.

Peloton

Here they come for the sprint. Sirotti photo

Between Tours and Châteauroux, over 160 kilometers, stage 6 of the Tour de France could have known a smooth and clear scenario, with just a massive anticipated sprint at the end. Some riders, and some teams, clearly had other ideas. After less than five kilometres, eight powerful riders indeed opened a gap. Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Soren Kragh Andersen (Team DSM), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R-Citroën) or even Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo), Jonas Rickaert (Alpecin- Fenix), Georg Zimmermann (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert) and Nils Politt (Bora-hansgrohe) formed a four-star breakaway and the Groupama-FDJ was left in a very sensitive position.

“The start went wrong for us,” said Thierry Bricaud. “We were not careful enough, and once the breakaway was gone, we were almost the only sprinter’s team with no guy up front. We knew it could happen but we lacked focus. The guys did not expect this kind of start. There were some great riders in the front and we didn’t think for long. We immediately saw it, and told the riders. However, by the time the guys could get in front and get into place, the gap had already increased to 40-50 seconds because the guys in the lead immediately pushed hard. We quickly had to adjust, otherwise we could not give a sprint to Arnaud. Therefore, we took on our responsibilities and it lasted thirty kilometers… Even if we made a small mistake at the start of the race, we must also say that the guys managed to set things right then, in particular Bruno, Stefan and Val. That’s all part of the game, but it won’t happen to them again.”

During the first thirty kilometers, the average pace recorded was 53km/h. The gap, which increased up to one minute, eventually dropped below twenty seconds as the riders passed Amboise. A few minutes later, and thanks to the collaboration of two other teams, it was almost all back together with just Greg Van Avermaet going solo in the lead. He later got the support of Roger Kluge (Lotto-Soudal) but the situation was from then on under control. Arnaud Démare and his teammates then let other teams do the chase all day, then got back in the first part of the bunch entering the last hour of racing, behind Bruno Armirail and Valentin Madouas.

A little later, approaching Châteauroux, Stefan Küng took over in order to put the train on the right track. “The energy we spent at the start of the race may have been lacking in the final, but the approach was still quite clear”, said Thierry. “We knew we had to come at the last moment in the sprint anyway. However, the key moment is that we lost Jacopo in the last three kilometers. From then on, it was not the same approach at all.” “You also need luck in cycling, and we don’t have it yet,” sighed Arnaud Démare. “It came from the right in the final, we hit each other with Jacopo and he fell down. We had to reorganize afterwards. For 500 meters, I asked myself: “what are we going to do?”. Miles was still there, he looked back, cheered me on and we got back into the fight. It was a weird setup but we got back on track well and Miles did a good job.”

The Australian rider held on to the last 600 meters and the former French champion then tried to find his way through to the line. However, being ten metres or so behind Mark Cavendish when launching the sprint, he was unable to bridge that much of a gap. “It’s a shame that we couldn’t catch the Alpecin train, because in terms of speed, I was not too bad”, said Arnaud. “I could have gone for more. I felt I was fast and there was room to do better”.

On the line, after having overtaken Peter Sagan and Cees Bol, the Frenchman had to settle for fourth “The frustrating part is seeing that there was the possibility to do a lot better,” said Thierry. “Everything has to be perfect at the right time. We must not forget that he was on the ground three days ago. He needed to gain confidence again and that is what happened today. We know that he’s back, and he knows it too.” “I have the legs to win”, claimed Arnaud. “I couldn’t join the first sprint, I was a little confused on the second one, but it’s okay now, I believe I can do it. We’ll just have to wait a week. If I’m in the right position for the next one, I surely can do something…” Before the next potential massive finish, some climbs will now appear on the riders’ route. It will start on Friday towards Le Creusot. “It won’t be an easy day at all,” warns Thierry. “First of all, there are 250k, which is no small feat. Then, the second part is very difficult and the riders will always be fighting on small roads. Whether there is a breakaway or not, there can be some movement for the overall. We will have to stay focused”.

Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this report:

The Tour de France took to the road again after yesterday’s time trial, the 160.6km stage almost tailor-made for the sprinters, with only one fourth category climb to contend with at the stage’s midway point ahead of a flat finale. With the race steadily heading south, the weather had improved from the damp conditions of the first few stages to sunshine, something that injected some ambition into the bunch as the attacks started from the first kilometre. Nils Politt jumped in a group of eight that had ambitions on being the day’s break, the German rider aiming to control the pace to prevent a strong break taking the win today. This group built a lead of a minute before the peloton started to pull them back.

Before the catch was made, a duo went off the front, these two riders forming the escape that set about creating a gap of more than two minutes. With Nils back in the bunch, the German rider worked to protect Wilco Kelderman and Peter Sagan, both eager to make an impact on the stage. The peloton was keeping the breakaway on a very short lead, the advantage little more than a minute as the day’s intermediate sprint approached.

While Peter had an excellent line here, having been brought into position by Lukas Pöstlberger, and was clearly feeling strong, the Slovak rider was pushed close to the barriers and lost his rhythm. The increase in speed for the intermediate sprint reduced the break’s lead significantly and, with 40km to go, their lead was fast approaching just thirty-seconds, causing the peloton to slow things down a little to reduce the chance of a late attack once the duo on the front were caught.

With less than 5km to go, the attack was yet to be caught, but Peter Sagan was riding at the head of the peloton, supported again by Lukas Pöstlberger, and on the long roads in Châteauroux, the break was in sight and it was finally swept up with 2.5km left. Surfing from wheel to wheel, the Slovak national champion searched for space but was caught behind and unable to pass, taking fifth place on the line. Wilco Kelderman finished with the sprinters, along with Emanuel Buchmann, Nils Politt and Patrick Konrad.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan finishes stage three. Sirotti photo

From the Finish Line:
"We had a very fast sprint where I finished fifth. I still have a bit of knee pain but, again, I gave my absolute best. It's a good thing we didn't have any crashes and that we are all sound and safe. We'll see tomorrow how everything goes." – Peter Sagan

"Today, we worked towards a sprint finish. Right from the start, we watched closely that a big break group didn't go away. We had a fast start to the stage and a strong breakaway with Nils in it. He controlled it without pushing the pace though. They were caught by the peloton but two riders kept in the front and from there on it was a controlled race. We tried to bring Peter in a good position, he was always there and took fifth on the finish line. There is space to improve, we are always in front and we look forward to the next stages." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director

And here's the report from Wout van Aert's Jumbo-Visma team:

Wout van Aert has sprinted to eighth place in the sixth stage of the Tour de France. In Châteauroux, the Belgian champion was not in a good position for a perfect sprint. Tomorrow the peloton heads into the French hills.

Wout van Aert

Here's Wout van Aert before the start of stage three. Sirotti photo.

Early in the stage Greg Van Avermaet and Roger Kluge broke away. Due to the control of the sprinter teams, the two did not come close to winning the stage. The peloton raced at high speed towards the long finish line in Châteauroux. Van Aert tried to sprint for the win, but was caught at 200 metres from the finish. Mark Cavendish took his second win of the day in the bunch sprint.

“I couldn’t get the most out of it”, Van Aert said. “I wasn’t positioned well enough at the end. I lost contact with Mike. At 200 meters from the line I had to brake hard. It was the first time this Tour that I wanted to get involved in the bunch sprint. I hope to do that more often this Tour. I prefer to chase a few stage victories in the coming weeks. The somewhat tougher stages suit me better than the pure sprint stages. Normally, tomorrow’s stage is one for the attackers. However, I think some of the sprinter teams will do everything they can to make it a sprint with a reduced peloton. Maybe there will be another chance for me.”

The Belgian says he feels good on the bike. In the coming days he hopes to creep up to his top form. “There is still a small margin between my current form and the form in which I can achieve stage victories. I will continue to chase my top form in the coming days. I feel I am not far from it. Fortunately, Primoz was able to save energy today and recover a bit from his injuries. There are a number of tough stages ahead.

Due to the way he rode the time trial yesterday, I am confident that we can still show beautiful things with him”, Van Aert concluded.

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