Another day which does not take long to rise upwards again, Stage 6’s 204.4km journey from Vila-Real to Sagunt encompasses five categorised climbs, though all except one are Category 3 ascents. Having left the day’ start town, the peloton will soon tackle the Category 3 pairing of Alto de Alcudia de Veo (11 km, avg. 3.4%) and Puerto de Eslida (5.3 km, avg. 5.1%). With this opening brace concluded, the road immediately drops away again and starts building to the summit of the Category 3 Alto de Chirivilla, taking 7.9 km to climb and averaging a gradient of 4.1% from bottom to top. Yet again, having reached the summit of a climb, the bunch is sent back down into the valley in order to climb the final Category 3 ascent of the day and the penultimate climb of Stage 6. The Puerto del Oronet is another similar climb which averages 4% during its 6.4km entirety, leading over the top and into another descent which finishes at the foot of the Puerto del Garbi, the day’s only Category 2 challenge, a tougher prospect at 9.3 km and averaging a gradient of 5.1%. From the top it is a descent almost right the way to the finish line, though the frontrunners will have another series of roundabouts to contend with and will only be afforded a clean finishing run of 100m.
Omar Fraile is expected to challenge for the mountains jersey once again this year and should therefore be interested in performing well on a day which features five categorised climbs. Having been totally anonymous this far, without any reason such as illness, it seems Dimension Data have been keeping him safe ahead of Stage 6. With a downhill run into the line and relatively flat conclusion, Fraile has the power to either distance rivals ahead of the finish or out sprint many likely escapees.
Luis Leon Sanchez fits the bill of a rider destined to perform well today, and if given the freedom to do so, will be a man which few can match on his favoured terrain. With the strength to join the breakaway early on, endure the ascents and then sprint for the stage win, Sanchez has all the skills required to make this back to back stage wins for Astana.
Julian Alaphilippe has risen in expectations has a result of yesterday’s performance and no longer appears to be as out of form as many had previously reported. He was not able to go with the main contenders when it mattered most on Stage 5, yet he was clearly motivated when marshalling the breakaway throughout the day and looks to have acquired confidence as a result of his form improving. There is no reason to suggest he cannot perform well on back to back days in the break, especially as a rider who seems able to turn his ability to anything, though fatigue could prove an issue here.
Alexis Gougeard will look upon a day which shares many of the attributes of the stage he won at the race a couple of years ago, no doubt raising questions as to why he invested such a great deal in yesterday’s less suiting affair. Regardless, he must be enjoying a level of encouraging form currently and the expectation is he will feature once again on Stage 6. He will need to ride clever though, as many of his anticipated breakaway companions are likely to prove faster in a sprint and the final kilometres could prove hard to solo away from rivals.
There is a small chance that a larger sprint finish may occur, in which case the likes of Sacha Modolo, Matteo Trentin, Magnus Cort and José Joaquín Rojas should feature.
1st Omar Fraile 2nd Alexis Gougeard 3rd Luis Leon Sanchez