Turns out the drama forecast for yesterday happened post-race, with the yellow jersey being handed to Adam Yates in the wake of Alaphilippe’s time penalty. Plenty of speculation surrounds how a well oiled team such as Deceuninck Quickstep could make the error of allowing the race leader to take a bottle after the 20km limit, but it is surprising that their manager and angriest man in cycling, Patrick Lefevere, seemed rather content when discussing the error.
Anyway, Stage 6 is a mighty 191km in total and takes the riders from Le Teil to Mont Aigoual, offering very little of note for the majority of the day; it does finish with more than 2000m of climbing however. Much of the ascending on Stage 6 is saved for the final climb (or climbs )itself, as the Col des Mourèzes and Col de la Lusette blend together en route to the summit of Mont Aigoul to produce 35km of almost constant climbing.
The assumption is that a medium sized group of GC focused riders will sweep up any remaining escapees late in the day en route to Mont Aigoual, where the frontrunners for the yellow jersey are bound to mark one another closely, but might not be lured into action given the lack of genuinely testing terrain in the closing kilometres to deal serious damage to one another. Because of this, those who climb just as well as the overall contenders, but lack the consistency to do so over three weeks look to be the favourites, able to indulge in the freedom afforded to them and set off in pursuit of stage honours…assuming Roglič does not poach another stage.
Close to victory on the first summit finish of this year’s race was Tadej Pogačar, an immense talent who has been expected to ‘make his name’ at the 2020 edition of Le Tour, which is quite a bit of pressure to deal with at 21 years old. His raw ability is a daunting prospect to battle against on a finale like this, and having already run the seemingly indomitable Roglic close for a win this week, he will be eager for a rematch and a reversal of fortune.
As mentioned, Primož Roglič will be poised to poach the honours on Stage 6 from any fading escapees or even his more defensively minded rivals. Jumbo-Visma have demonstrated their firepower with ease, not only seizing control of the race at times, but also ramming it into a gear which few anticipated they even had. It is very likely this will be repeated again here, setting a tempo so high that no attacks can stick in the closing kilometres, placing Roglič to sprint to victory late on once again.
Guillaume Martin could be on the cusp of breaking the dreaded Cofidis curse, as there is no denying his fantastic form right now, and the freedom he should be guaranteed of receiving if timing his attack well enough. He finished third on the summit finish which Roglič stormed to, but may have done better if biding his time, something which could be key to success on this occasion. It is still very early in Le Tour de France and not many of the big names here will want to risk blowing up chasing futile attacks if there is no direct threat to their yellow jersey ambitions; a smart ride could prove fruitful for Martin.
He might not want to claim the yellow jersey back, but Julian Alaphilippe will wish to give the maillot jaune something to think about today at the very least. Free of the burden that is being a Frenchman leading Le Tour, Alaphilippe can stay safe amongst the ranks of the GC contenders and focus upon using his sprinting prowess on gradients such as these to beat favourites like Pogačar and Roglič. His team are likely to switch focus to protecting Sam Bennett from now on, meaning he is likely to be isolated late in the concluding kilometres, but when has having to ride on his own against the peloton ever stopped him from winning.
Thibaut Pinot would normally be a strong challenger for the honours here, yet there are question marks regarding his condition after crashing on the opening stage, which mean it is not possible to have total faith in him. His sprinting abilities amongst the climbers are some of the best, making him a definite threat to both Pogačar and Roglič if on form and if the action is left late once again, there is no better opportunity to stretch the legs in pursuit of a win than today.
Others to consider amongst the moves are Lennard Kämna, Alessandro De Marchi, Pierre Rolland, Krists Neilands and Nicolas Roche.
1st Guillaume Martin 2nd Tadej Pogačar 3rd Primož Roglič