Le Tour de France 2018 Stage 18 Race Preview

Le Tour de France 2018 – Stage 6 Preview


A 181km jaunt from Brest to the iconic climb of the Mür de Bretagne, providing the peloton’s finest puncheurs with a chance to test themselves upon the brutal finishing slope at the end of the day. Rolling throughout and featuring a total of four recognised climbs, much of Stage 6 should prove a tame affair, with many teams eager to ensure everything is back together for the anticipated battle up the Mür de Bretagne. With approximately 20km left of the day’s racing, the riders will be required to ascend the Mür for the first time, giving them one last chance to tweak any plans ahead of the decisive second climb to the line.

Le Tour de France 2018 Stage Six Race PreviewLe Tour de France 2018 Stage Six Race Preview


Alejandro Valverde is no stranger to mürs having won La Flèche Wallonne an astounding five times against the Mür de Huy, making him the clear favourite for victory on Stage 6. A specialist like no other, it will take a great strategic manoeuvre to soften his grip upon his dominance of this climb, but we did see it was possible to do so earlier this spring.

Julian Alaphilippe was the man to finally interrupt the dominance of Valverde at La Flèche Wallonne when winning earlier this year and will definitely fancy his chances of doing so once again here on the Mür de Bretagne. It could be argued that the fact this has taken the shape of a Tour de France stage rather than an Ardennes classic could favour the Frenchman with eyes on another win atop the wall.

Dan Martin has often proved the best man after Alejandro Valverde during springtime finishes like these, though must feel as if he is stuck in a video loop with how each contest seems to play out as he loses touch in the final moments to the Spaniard. However, Martin is another rider who may benefit from this famous climb being part of a Tour de France stage, leaving him to be more explosive and potentially overtake his rivals when it matters most upon the Mür.

Alexis Vuillermoz took the win when Le Tour de France last finished here and will have his eyes on repeating this feat once again, though shall not doubt appreciate his previous glory will have reduced his freedom compared to 2015.

Others to consider are Peter SaganPierre LatourGreg Van Avermaet, Daryl Impey and Rigoberto Uran.


1st Julian Alaphilippe 2nd Alejandro Valverde 3rd Dan Martin


Rapido Guide – Tirreno Adriatico Stage 6


With race organisers making the bold (yet correct decision) to prioritise rider safety when cancelling Stage 5, we move swiftly onto Stage 6 with an ever greater scope of riders still in contention for the overall win than expected by this point. The penultimate day is a 210km stretch from Castelraimondo to Cepagatti and is likely to encourage several of the well placed sprinters and strongmen on the general classification to try and gather a few bonus seconds ahead of the final time trail by winning Stage 6. The day as a whole is very simple, but the rises in the final 35km will be noteworthy, as well as a uphill battle to the line.
Stage 6


Peter Sagan has so far managed to avoid winning a stage here with great aplomb, but today’s challenge surely looks tailor-made for his abilities. With a 200km+ distance and some lumpy terrain late on, the reigning World Champion must feel confident of powering away from the rest of the contenders on the rise up to the finish line. A certain rival on this occasion will be Fernando Gaviria, the young Colombian being in great form right now and appears to dominate this type of uphill finale with great sucess. Caleb Ewan is one of the fastest in any race and is certainly the man to beat in a drag race here, but this final incline will blunt his speed somewhat, though Stage 3 demonstrated that this still results in a ferocious turn of speed. Moreno Hofland saw his team fumble the leadout on Stage 3, but will once again be a contender today if everything goes to plan on this occasion. With only the time trial remaining after this, Greg Van Avermaet could well fancy stealing bonus seconds by winning the stage and help cement BMC’s chances of winning this race overall alongside teammate Tejay Van Garderen.


1st Peter Sagan 2nd Greg Van Avermaet 3rd Fernando Gaviria


Rapido Guide: Tour Down Under Stage 6


This year’s Tour Down Under will once again sign off with a criterium race around the streets of Adelaide, promising an exciting finale to 2016’s edition. Minimal technical demands and only slight rises during each lap, Stage 6 is set to be a showdown amongst the fastest men remaining at this race.



Caleb  Ewan is in flying form right now and is certain to be the man to beat here given his recent showings and great team support. Leading the challengers set to test the young Australian is Wouter Wippert, the Dutchman finishing third behind Ewan on the first stage. While the likes of Ben Swift and Giacomo Nizzolo are still present, the stage does not suit their ability to dominate a difficult sprint, so instead Adam Blythe gets our nod as an outside bet for stage honours.


1st Caleb Ewan 2nd Wouter Wipper 3rd Adam Blythe


La Vuelta a España – Stage 6 Preview


Stage 6 is a return to the longer 200km+ days in the saddle at this year’s La Vuelta a España, with this one providing the most gruelling finish so far. The peloton will depart from the start in Cordoba and begin riding East towards the finish of Sierra de Cazorla, a summit finish which is making its debut at this race. Though some would label this as the type of transitional stage expected from a grand tour, the reality is a 200.3km ride which offers little time to relax, spending the vast majority of the day sending the bunch up and down hills in quick succession.

Excluding the finish, the only other recognised climb of the day comes after 132.7km have been clocked up, the ascent in question being the Category 3 Alto de Baeza. It is a steady climb which lasts a total of 11.8km and rarely strays beyond its average gradient of 3.9%, meaning the riders should find it easy enough to strike the appropriate rhythm to the top. Once summited, the road jaggedly works its way downhill in order to place the pack at the base of the climb which forms the day’s finale.


With a little over 20km remaining, the road builds steadily upwards and will instigate the fight for position from the general classification teams and those wishing to mount a convincing charge for stage honours here. As the riders approach the final Category 3 climb which serves as the finish on Stage 6, they will drop sharply downhill for a brief moment and then begin the 3.3km grind up to the line. The average gradient en route to Sierra de Cazorla is 6.3% and offers little in the way of uniform terrain, constantly fluctuating in intensity all the way to the summit. Around 8% – 10% will be inflicted upon the frontrunners in the opening kilometre, before then easing suddenly to 5%; a deceitful change ahead of what lies in store. The remaining 1.3km are then contested at stepper inclines, and once beyond the flamme rouge, those still in with a chance of victory will then face 10% – 13% in order to make it across the line. Like many of these intermediate Spanish summit finishes, several turns are present late on and this includes a tight right hand bend with less than 300m remaining; leading into a sharp 100m long decline. After this the road is uphill all the way to the finish and will have no doubt break plenty of riders who struggle to muster the strength required to kick again for the line.





Alejandro Valverde could well double up on victories after his Stage 4 efforts and earn himself another grand tour win; on that occasion managing to kick more than once on the final climb and shut the door on Peter Sagan ahead of the line. Once again his combination of technical prowess on these tricky finishes and an ability to make sprinting uphill look effortless marks him out as favourite once again today. Assuming that his team Movistar manage to reel in any late breakaways, then Valverde will be a very difficult many to beat on this leg breaking finish, which appears set to catch plenty of riders out in regards to its difficulty. The Spanish Champion is no stranger to following the necessary wheel to pull him to the front and remains a danger even if isolated during the crucial moments of this race.

Joaquim Rodriguez often brings his best on testing finishes such as this which stay within the double-digit gradient range for the most part. He attacked hard on Stage 2 and is clearly in good form despite walking away empty handed on that occasion; today is an even better fit for the gifted puncheur. Katusha are great at working for their leader and Rodriguez will not have to expend energy worrying about positioning as a result of this. What he will need to focus on however is the timing of his attack, too much eyeballing of rivals could cost him the win, instead he as to commit wholeheartedly to a move and ensure that anyone up the road is within catching distance.

Esteban Chaves has already made his presence here felt by winning Stage 2 and holding the leader’s Red Jersey until yesterday allowed Tom Dumoulin to relieve him of his burden by a margin of a solitary second. Having lost the jersey, Chaves remained upbeat and seemed confident of featuring in the mix for another stage win in the absence of being the most marked man in the race. There is no doubt of his condition right now and his prowess on such terrain makes him a contender for Stage 6, though plenty will surprisingly consider him an outsider.

Dan Martin has so far seen his stage winning chances evaporate on two occasions, once due to poor tactical decision making and the other due to wheel changes and crashes. Today suits him well once again, the Irishman possibly possessing a blend of climbing skill and sprinting ability only bettered by Alejandro Valverde. On this occasion he has to be the first man to make the move and force those behind to calculate the chase, any lead offered up to Martin is dangerous and could prove impossible to pull back on a finish such as this.

Domenico Pozzovivo has arrived at the Vuelta a España with the hope of saving a season  marred by a horrendous crash during the Giro d’Italia, but he has since recovered well and put in encouraging performances at the Tour de Suisse and Tour de l’Ain. The diminutive Italian finished 7th and 14th on Stages 5 and 4 respectively at the Vuelta so far and should fancy his chances once again on a difficult and technical finale which may see him unmarked; providing him the freedom required to contest the win.

Gianluca Brambilla has not quite ridden as well as expected so far at the race, but he could see this opportunity as a way of rising to the challenge and strike upon a victory for his team. Brambilla has chances in both a breakaway or a late solo move and is likely to utilise his unmarked nature to steal a march on the bigger names.

Daniel Moreno is good at negotiating the technical demands of a finish such as this and is one of the fastest sprinters for this type of rush to the line. Unfortunately for him, it is likely that he will be used to help place teammate Joaquim Rodriguez into a race winning position during the final couple of kilometres. Should things not go to plan and Moreno is required to takeover leadership responsibilities for Katusha, there is a good chance of him getting the better of riders such as Valverde; having already pushed him close on Stage 4.

Louis Meintjes could be brought into contention on a run into home which will prevent many from striking a comfortable rhythm. The MTN-Qhubeka rider is no doubt on the hunt for a shock win at this year’s Vuelta a España, this perhaps being such an opportunity. Though much of the peloton is still yet to offer the charitable organisation the respect they deserve, Meintjes’ hopes today are supported by a strong team who will not shy away from an ‘elbows out’ type of finish.

John Darwin Atapuma is really here to support the ambitions of his team leader Tejay Van Garderen and to also aim for a modest general classification placing of his own. However, Stage 6 does offer a reasonable platform for the talented Colombian to launch his own bid for victory. If allowed to depart from his team’s demands to help shepard Tejay Van Garderen to safety, he might just manage to slip past the favourites and take the glory. Admittedly, the terrain is not perfect for him as it lacks the length and intensity of most typical ‘Colombian friendly’ finishes, while the brief 100m downhill section does not aid him much either.

Kenny Elissonde is a strange one to place in the mix for today, many remain unsure of his progress as of late and what exactly he is targeting as he develops into the supposed next general classification hope of France. His ambitions of a good overall placing here look to have evaporated already and it would not be a negative move to instead focus upon a possible stage victory instead. A longer and more regular climb to the line would have been a benefit, but he is the sort of dark horse who could smuggle himself aboard a late breakaway before the bunch realise who the FDJ.fr jersey belongs to.

Sylvain Chavanel is the eternally combative French favourite and could seize his chance to make a move during the finale of this stage, or perhaps even earlier. He is often most comfortable in a break which stays out for the whole day, so keep an eye open for his name in the day’s opening attack. Should such a group take it all the way to the line, Chavanel has a knack for sandbagging and often gives it everything for the win after most would look upon him as being a broken man.

Julien Simon is worth a mention after finishing an impressive 7th on Stage 4 and will fancy building upon this result on a similar day’s finish. Much like the previous two or three riders mentioned above, the Frenchman could choose to bide his team until the final kilometres or instead join a breakaway with the hope of being the strongest rider come the end.


1st Joaquim Rodriguez 2nd Dan Martin 3rd Alejandro Valverde


Le Tour de France – Stage 6 Preview

A second win for André Greipel on Stage 5 proved that his current ownership of the maillot vert is clearly no fluke, beating a fast finishing Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish to take the glory in Amiens. Though the German’s form right now is potent, he will literally have an uphill struggle to maintain his dominance on a finish in Le Havre which favours those more adept at sprinting against a gradient. A rolling day in the saddle will appeal to those wishing to exert themselves amongst a worthwhile breakaway, which could make the most of terrain likely to interfere with the chase behind. Regardless, it is expected that a strong raft of teams will be eager to pursue any escapees in order to guarantee a bunch kick that appeals to many strong finishing riders at this Tour de France.


It will take 191.5km for the peloton to complete Stage 6’s journey from Abbeville to Le Havre, a day which should not concern the general classification riders too greatly, but the weather in these parts may have other plans in store. Though not mountainous, the riders will still face constant changes in gradient, demanding varied efforts to stick the pace uphill and down. Several uncategorised climbs are present early on, but it is not until the peloton reach Dieppe where they encounter the first official climb and where many will consider the race to then be ‘on’. Côte de Dieppe is a Category 4 climb which lasts 1.8km and is contested at a steady gradient of 4%, however more interest will be apparent here as to the climb being a marker to the races coastal location. From this point onwards it is coastal roads right the way to the day’s finish in Le Havre, ensuring that anxieties shall once again run high as teams attempt to keep their leader’s safe in the face of dangerous echelon forming crosswinds.

The Côte de Pourville-sur-Mer soon follows and is of a similar nature; being 2km in length and possessing an average gradient of 4.5%. An extended period of racing will then follow, which features zero official climbs until the Côte du Tilleul after 162km of riding has been completed. This final categorised climb of the day is a short 1.6km, but shall be a little more demanding given a gradient of 5.6% which could be magnified depending on race conditions at the time. Almost 30km shall now remain by this point, instigating the usual jostling for position as sprinters begin building the tempo and general classification men try to stay out of trouble by sitting on the front.

As the terrain is considerably flatter than what will have formed most of the day’s riding, the biggest threat as they turn onto the concluding flat roads to Le Havre is very likely to be the coastal winds. The real fight amongst the stage contenders begins as they drop down at Sainte-Adresse and start to bear down upon their finish as they pick up speed on the flatter roads. A few technical bends will need negotiating before they hit the bottom of the day’s decisive incline at 1.5km from the line; Côte d’Ingouville. The average gradient of 7% will begin to reveal the true contenders for stage honours during its 850m entirety; not finishing until only 500m remains. Positioning will have been crucial upon this decisive hill, as nobody wanting to contest the win will find success, should they end up boxed in by other riders slipping backwards down the pack. With the final 500m only managing a 1% drag, the tempo will be intense on the preceding climb to ensure anyone fast enough to win on the finishing straight is shelled out the back before being given the chance to sprint.

A winner here will need to be a rapid climber in the final 2km, able to go into the red to follow the attacks and still have enough left to finish the job with a winning sprint over the last 500m. The pure sprinters should find this whole affair too gruelling, so it is likely to be a mixture of sprinters with enough grunt to make it over Côte d’Ingouville with the frontrunners and lithe puncheurs who will fight for the gruelling victory in Le Havre.



Given his recent demonstrations of speed, positioning and brute force; Peter Sagan is the standout candidate to walk away with a Tour de France win on Stage 6. The Slovak rider seems to have reignited the blend of pace and strength which first saw him become a Green Jersey force at Le Tour, performing very well at the Tour of California this year and appear to have carried this form over to France. The uphill section ahead of the line should blunt the top end speed of his faster rivals and perhaps even deter the likes of André Greipel and Mark Cavendish from contesting this finale; especially given the much more favourable conclusion to the following Stage 7. Regardless of who he does find to be his strongest rival on the day, Sagan is bound to be well placed going into the climb and equally well positioned exiting it onto the finishing straight, where his current turn of pace will be hard to match for many.

Alexander Kristoff warrants inclusion here thanks to his prowess upon these difficult finishes, but could possibly have favoured an uphill sprint right to the line; rather than the almost flat drag to the line once the preceding hill is tackled. If the riders do not hit the uphill section at quite as high a speed as expected, then Kristoff will come right into contention, as it should allow him to pace the climb well enough to leave a sufficient acceleration in reserve to challenge for the victory. The Norwegian has consistently performed beyond expectations this year, so he cannot be totally excluded from the podium; even if he is forced to ride the Côte d’Ingouville at a strong pace.

A man who no doubt has the perfect paring of sprint speed and the strength to survive is the German John Degenkolb. He was impressive on Stage 4, which he clearly should have won had Tony Martin not given everyone the slip and soloed to a three second winning margin ahead of his compatriot sprinter. Tough races seem to bring the best out of Degenkolb and the likely mad rush during the last 30km will benefit a man who currently has the whole team at his disposal. Position will be crucial for him, though he can compensate somewhat once he hits the flat and opens up his sprint to the line. Much like Kristoff, he needs to survive the Côte d’Ingouville in as best condition as possible in order to execute a competitive sprint, something which is bound to ensure other teams make life as hard as possible on this decisive final climb.

The sight of a vanishing Tony Martin up the road could well be replicated by Greg Van Avermaet as he aims to steal a march on his faster finishing rivals. The Belgian is riding well at the moment and has perhaps been playing it safe so far, not wanting to invest too much energy into stages which are unlikely to yield a worthwhile return. It is hard to see him beating the likes of Sagan, Kristoff and Degenkolb if shoulder to shoulder on the last 500m, making it possible the BMC man will take off just ahead of the hill  in order to gain an advantage and compensate en route to victory.

Perhaps underestimated on this finish is Europcar’s Bryan Coquard, a sprinter who has displayed previous prowess on these drags to the line; including wins at Tour du Sud on similar finales ahead of Le Tour. Like many in the peloton at the moment, Coquard has already touched down on the tarmac, with two hard impacts yesterday alone. The chances are he could wake up feeling a bit too sore in order to give it everything, though he remains one of France’s best options for a stage win here.

There is no doubt that Lampre-Merida’s Davide Cimolai is dangerously underestimated on terrain which clearly favours his abilities. The performances of the young Italian at Paris-Nice this year demonstrated why he cannot be discounted, especially with the backing of a team which has limited hope of walking away from the entire three weeks with a victory. He will be confident of being positioned well by those around him, and once over the climb, could be one of the freshest riders ahead of the sprint finish.

André Greipel holds little chance of featuring on Stage 6, but instead of throwing the towel in entirely, Lotto-Soudal may decide to switch plans and back Tony Gallopin to perform well in this finish. The Frenchman is once again in good shape for his home tour and looked impressive on Stage 3’s trip up the Mur de Huy. He is very talented on this sort of terrain and even has a good sprint to fight for the win if unable to drop his rivals before the final 500m; Gallopin could attack solo before the Côte d’Ingouville or stick with the frontrunners to try his hand in a bigger sprint.

Considering the final climb flattens out to form the 500m finishing straight, it suits the talents of Edvald Boasson Hagen very nicely and he should be a prominent feature late on. The Norwegian has already turned in two impressive sprinting performances so far at this tour on Stages 5 and 4, making him a clear contender for victory in Le Havre. His MTN-Qhubeka team has the talent to ensure he has support on Côte d’Ingouville and he should be well positioned as a result of this. It has been quite some time since EBH has been competitive at a grand tour, but today could change all that if the African squad execute their plan to perfection.


Though there is much to calculate in order to win Stage 6, it is likely to be a case of whoever survives the final climb in the best shape becomes favourite, to then use up anything remaining to sprint hard for the line. Peter Sagan should feel confident of succeeding here and has already stated that he wishes to convert his second place finish into a victory during the first week. His late acceleration was so impressive during the sprint for the previous day’s line, he probably would not have even needed an extra five meters to take the win; such was his pace. Sagan has a fantastic ability to recover rapidly after big efforts, combing this with his current condition, he is the clear favourite to win here. John Degenkolb and Alexander Kristoff are both considerably faster on the run to the line, but an intense ride up Côte d’Ingouville could leave them too drained to contest the victory at full gas. Both Bryan Coquard and Davide Cimolai are underrated as threats for the win on Stage 6, equally gifted for these sort of finales, though both are likely to have preferred it having finished atop the last hill itself. There of course remains the chance that a rider could get a jump on the entire field of favourites and solo over the Côte d’Ingouville in order to beat the sprinters before they even get the chance to wind up for the rush to the line. Should such a situation arise, then Greg Van Avermaet of BMC and Tony Gallopin of Lotto-Soudal are two riders who could prove extremely difficult to reel back in by the sprinters’ teams.

1st Peter Sagan 2nd Greg Van Avermaet 3rd John Degenkolb

Outsider: Tony Gallopin


Tour de Suisse – Stage 6 Preview

Yesterday’s Queen stage lived up to expectations and saw an elite group of contenders left in the final 5km to wrestle their way to the top of the fearsome Rettenbachferner. Impressive performances from Geraint Thomas, Simon Špilak, Domenico Pozzovivo and Miguel Ángel López all warrant their own column inches of acclaim, but it was the dominant showing of Frenchman Thibaut Pinot which stole the show and won him both the stage and overall race leadership. It had been a while since we last witnessed such a display from the talented FDJ.fr rider and he stands atop the general classification with an advantage of 47″ to his nearest rival Geraint Thomas. With relatively tame parcours now remaining, it is the individual time trial on Stage 9 which is set to decide whether or not Pinot can keep yellow upon his shoulders. Tom Dumoulin demonstrated immense determination to limit his losses to Pinot and remains a great threat to the overall win while only 1′ 37″ behind in tenth place, but it is the proven time trialist Geraint Thomas who looks poised to seize upon his leadership role here and attempt to take the overall win from Pinot at the death.


Thursday’s Stage 6 offers an immediate contrast to the previous day’s war of attrition between the mountain men, this day is aimed at luring the sprinters out and seeing who has survived the last 24 hours in the best condition. A 193.1km stretch from Wil to Biel should ensure a sprint finish is guaranteed, though rolling in nature upon the profile card, the stage’s early kilometres are the highest points after their departure, so the day should not prove too difficult to control for the sprinters’ teams. One climb is present during the day’s ride, the Category 3 Auensteinstrasse which is only 1km in length, but an energy sapping 8.3% gradient for its entirety. Though that is officially the sole recognised climb, that is not to suggest that the day is lacking in climbing, a total of 1167m being racked up during the stage despite never venturing north of 600m in altitude.

A variety of climbs around 2km in legnth are spread throughout the day, but having not been formally recognised by Tour de Suisse for this stage, there is little data for the peloton to anticipate their efforts. Once all of these diminutive climbs have been tackled, the riders will see the tempo increase rapidly as they ride onto the final 25km of predominately flat terrain. Anxiety will begin to spread throughout the pack as the need for the sprinters to position themselves ahead of this testing finale is paramount. The technical conclusion to Stage 6 is almost a reversed run in; beginning with an extended stretch of flat road which turns left tightly at 800m from the line, the sprinters will then swarm to readjust their position as they exit and then enter the final right-angled turn which sends them streaming right and onto a short 200m finishing straight. The ability to jump from wheel to wheel and a potent acceleration are set to be likely attributes which the eventual winner shall need to possess in order to win Stage 6.



Sprinters are offered little here in regards to a real top speed drag race, the finishes at Tour de Suisse often acting as a greater platform for the classics styled riders and puncheurs instead. Despite today’s technical final kilometre, it is the closest thing the real thoroughbred sprinters have to a dry run of the sprints which they shall be targeting at Le Tour de France in just a few weeks. Hence why Mark Cavendish is the man most fancied to win this stage, coming here in good form and wielding a leadout train which has the ability to deliver him safely into position when it matters most. With two dangerously tight bends once under the flamme rouge, positioning is imperative for those wishing to feature in the sprint, making Cavendish’d sprint train of Mark Renshaw, Michal Kwiatkowski, Matteo Trentin and Zdenek Stybar priceless. The short 200m sprint could see Cavendish struggle to get up to speed fast enough, but the Brit is renowned for the ability to hold a gap, rather than continually pulling away from his rivals.

John Degenkolb is certainly in good form this year, taking both Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix during the sprint, but is likely to find this short, technical finish not to his suiting today. The German does own a solid leadout at this year’s Tour de Suisse, so has the potential to exit the last bend in a good position, but often finds himself without support in the final moments before he starts his sprint. A longer sprint after the corner would have offered him a greater chance of winning, allowing him to empty the tank and burn off his opponents before the line. He remains a danger despite the poor course for his abilities, where a messy finale could see him placed higher than expected and once he hits the front at full gas the win might be his.

This race has already proven that Peter Sagan has rediscovered form since leave the Tour of California after a dominant showing. Though Sagan does not have the raw speed to beat a rider such as Cavendish, this tricky finale which exits onto such a short finishing straight could level the playing field somewhat and the Slovak rider would be dangerous to underestimate given recent showings. A leadout is less of an imperative for Sagan too, a man who has taken several wins when riding solo in the finale and surfing wheels before hitting the front. If he can get the jump on his bigger named sprint rivals after the final corner, Peter Sagan could certainly win this tricky stage finish.

This stage fails to suit Alexander Kristoff, but even if it did, making a case for the Norwegian would remain a difficult task given his apparent struggles at this attritional race. He prefers a real battle for the line, often against a gradient and a much longer run at the line which allows him to get upto maximum speed. A certain level of support should be present for Kristoff as they approach the finish, a luxury which has often been absent, despite taking major victories in the last year; so he could be better positioned than expected after the last turn. This season has seen him regularly perform beyond expectation and to feature competitively at the end of Stage 6 would perhaps be one of the most impressive so far.

Once again Lampre-Merida have two options in Niccolo Bonifazio and Davide Cimolai, but could be left scratching their heads as to who is best to support on Stage 6. The young Bonifazio clearly possesses the required technical prowess and potent acceleration to win this stage, but has not looked comfortable the last couple of days in the saddle; if he has recovered then he should be well back by the team. Should Bonifazio appear ropey, Davide Cimolai can step in and offer the team a reasonable alternative, he would prefer a more difficult conclusion to the stage in regards to terrain, but the complicated finish might play out favourably for him regardless.

The last man to cross the line home yesterday was Arnaud Démare, a sprinter who would certainly be considered a strong contender if form was more apparent right now for the Frenchman. Technically testing finales are well within his abilities and the short finishing straight would allow him to utilise is rapid acceleration to get the jump on his rivals before they can begin closing him down. If he is in a better condition than expected on the day Démare, has everything to make him a real threat to the rest of the contenders.

A messy fight for positioning as the peloton hit the final bend could see some unexpected names placed at the fore with only 200m remaining; Jasper StuyvenTom Van Asbroeck and Jurgen Roelandts perhaps able to find themselves in the eventual top ten.


Mark Cavendish is the fastest man here, but is bound to have preferred a stage finale more suiting to his attributes. Regardless, he will not wish to have ridden the Tour de Suisse to simply walk away empty handed, so will no doubt invest everything into winning Stage 6. His team support is extremely talented and should guarantee him the required pacing in the concluding kilometres that it will be a struggle for anyone else to swamp him before the last bend. His biggest concern could come from Peter Sagan who has been approaching great form ahead of Le Tour de France and will be a threat on a stage finish which is more about positioning and acceleration than top sprint speed. Sagan has often found himself chasing Cavendish’s wheel, but Stage 6 could end up being the perfect opoorutnrit to remedy this frequent situation. Beyond those two, a real mixture of riders could fill the minor placings, but both John Degenkolb and Alexander Kristoff are bound to manage a threatening charge to the line if all goes well in the last kilometre for themselves and their leadouts. A real dark horse for the stage win is Frenchman Arnaud Démare, a rider who is tailor made to take this victory, but his form is absent at the moment and he looks to be suffering from yesterday’s demands and a crash earlier in the week.

1st Peter Sagan 2nd Mark Cavendish 3rd John Degenkolb

Outsider: Arnaud Démare


Giro d’Italia – Stage 6 Preview

Once again eyebrows were left raised after a decidedly more frenetic stage unfolded on day five, this time seeing the pink jersey fall upon the shoulders of pre-race favourite Alberto Contador. ‘El Pistolero’ was first to draw amongst the overall contenders and provoked Fabio Aru and Richie Porte into a reaction when he attacked late on the ascent to Abetone. Further up the road during the Spaniard’s debut skirmish of this Giro was the remnants of the day’s breakaway, 23 year old stage winner Jan Polanc being its most successful participant. Sylvain Chavanel was the only other man to benefit from the break, claiming an impressive second place by a couple of bike lengths ahead of a rapidly closing Fabio Aru, who won the sprint for third against his overall rivals Alberto Contador and Richie Porte.


The sprinters should finally be able to take to the fore on Stage 6, one of their few nailed on opportunities at an edition of the Giro d’Italia which has dismissed the supposed rule book thus far. This will be the longest day in the saddle in this first week and should act as a bridge to the following day’s 264km trek which compromises Stage 7, but in the meantime the focus is firmly on the day ahead. Starting in Montecatini Terme and heading down towards the coast once again, the route will include a sole categorised climb in the rolling middle part, before returning once again to the flat as they head onwards to finish at the historic seaside town of Castiglione della Pescaia. There will be hardly a hint of a bump during the opening 60km, but once past Saline di Volterra, the pack will begin their short ascent of the day’s only recognised climb. The summit of this Category 4 climb is located at Pomarance, taking 6.3km to complete and averaging a steady 4.4% gradient; it is worth noting that the maximum here is 11% though. After this they will continue upwards through Larderello and Castelnuovo Val di Cecina, before beginning to step back down in altitude via Pian dei Mucini and Ghirlanda. The final 30km or so will be predominately flat and lead them all the way to the finish in Castiglione della Pescaia.



Lotto-Soudal will be looked upon as the marshals for this day’s race, other teams aware of how André Greipel is now Lotto’s best bet for glory at this year’s Giro d’Italia. The German sprinter looked comfortable for the most part during the previous day’s rolling terrain, even if he did finish almost 20 minutes behind stage winner Polanc in Abetone. Greipel is the fastest man here on paper and will take great confidence in a finish which is simple to navigate and shall be decided upon a wide straight. Assuming he can stay out of trouble and avoid being overwhelmed by the scramble for position, he is the clear favourite for a stage which suits him well.

The man who is currently racing with the red jersey upon his shoulders is Team Sky’s Elia Viviani, having earned himself the honour after winning on Stage 2. An extremely fast finisher with the tactical nous of a track rider, Viviani is a major threat in a race which lacks the dominant force of rival leadout trains. Though short on support himself, like many other big name sprinters here, he has a reasonable record for picking the right wheel before unleashing a rapid burst of pace. He is likely to be searching for Greipel’s in the finale and should the German miscalculate his effort, Viviani is the most likely to benefit.

Trek Factory Racing offer the only real recognised leadout train at this year’s Giro d’Italia and will do their upmost to deliver Giacomo Nizzolo to the finish in a good position. The Italian has been amazingly consistent at his home race over the years, but it still bereft of his first grand tour stage win. Given his speed, he is one of the most likely sprinters who could cause an upset against Viviani and Greipel.

Giant-Alpecin will pin their hopes on Luka Mezgec in the sprints this year and have already seen encouraging signs after he finished 4th on the second day. He has a reasonably well equipped leadout and will be confident after a consistent 2014 Giro which rewarded him with a win on the final day.

Robert Wagner was a key figure in the leadout for Moreno Hofland and his abandonment will have dented the Dutchman’s hopes of another stellar performance in the sprint for sure. Though Hofland is quick, he would have preferred a finale more similar to that of the second stage, where he was just beaten to the win by Elia Viviani’s well timed acceleration.

Lampre-Merida were no doubt disappointed to see the hopes of Sacha Modolo vanish in the midst of Stage 2’s conclusion. Having been carefully positioned by his teammates, Modolo was pushed out wide by an erratic Giacomo Nizzolo; forcing him to abandon his sprint and roll over the line. With that still fresh in his mind, Modolo will be eager for a repeat leadout, but one with an alternative outcome. Bearing in mind this finish will be more of a drag race than a technical approach, Modolo is not quite as well fancied as before, but he has the ability to squeeze onto the podium if all goes well for him this time.


Stage 6 will be a well organised stage which ensure any breakaway is kept on a tight leash to guarantee the battle royale of the sprinters comes to fruition. The dominant presence at the front of the peloton throughout the day is likely to be Lotto-Soudal, aiming to take a stage win as their general classification hopes begin to dwindle already. André Greipel will be the man to beat, assuming he is delivered to the finale successfully, the wide and flat finishing straight suits the German powerhouse extremely well and in a Giro short on opportunities for the quick men, he would be a fool to spurn it. Elia Viviani will look to defend his ownership of the red jersey with another good performance and certainly has the speed to overturn the German once again, but on Stage 2’s finish there was a slight drag which Greipel perhaps failed to judge correctly, helping to deliver Viviani the win. Luka Mezgec and Giacomo Nizzolo are the next two most likely to find themselves on the podium; both have a good record at the Giro and possess enough support to compensate them on a stage finish which does not quite play perfectly into their hands.

1st André Greipel 2nd Giacomo Nizzolo 3rd Elia Viviani