87th Tour de France - Grand Tour

France, July 1 - 23, 2000

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Stage 6 - July 6: Vitre - Tours, 198.5 km

Welcome to stage 6 of the Tour de France. Today's stage is another flat 'sprinters' race, however it's only a matter of time before a break succeeds. Yesterday was ohh, so close for Rabobank's Erik Dekker and Credit Agricole's Jens Voigt, who leading the Maillot Jaune Virtual competition, a special prize invented by the cyclingnews.com team. Today, who knows? He could well increase his lead.

Join Jeff and Tim for the next four and a half hours of live action from the 87th Tour de France.

Scheduled start time: 12:54 CET

13:04 CET - 5.0 km

They're off and racing once more, and it is a full field of 177 riders that take to the roads between Vitre and Tours, the finish of the famous autumn classic, Paris-Tours. There are three 6, 4, and 2 second bonus sprints on offer today, at km 39.0 (Quelaines-Saint-Gault), km 89.5 (Daumeray) and km 154.5 (Hommes).

There are no climbs, so Mapei's Paolo Bettini who took the polka dot jersey from stage winner, Marcel Wüst will wear it for at least another day.

13:11 CET - 7.0 km

For those who wondered about the overall standings change yesterday, Laurent Jalabert (ONCE) lost 10 seconds on many of his rivals by finishing in the back group in the bunch sprint in Vitre. His teammate, Abraham Olano was leading the group, but left enough of a gap so that his bunch was given a separate time.

This means that Jalabert is still 12 seconds in front of David Cañada, but only 14 seconds in front of Armstrong.

13:17 CET - 11.0 km

Marco Pantani (Mercatone Uno) experiences some problems early on with a puncture. However, he is helped back to the bunch by his willing teammates.

13:25 CET - 15.0 km

There are a flurry of attacks early on, with the most successful one coming from Lotto's breakaway specialist, Jacky Durand. He has a small gap to the peloton now.

A Tour trivia question: who were the two least successful directors of the Tour de France, and what relationship did they have to each other? First one on the buzzer gets their name up in lights on cyclingnews. Email your answer.

13:36 CET - 22.0 km

Durand has been joined by 11 other riders, and they have a 45 second gap to the peloton. It is a well represented break, with Rabobank having three riders: José Luis Arrieta (Banesto), Leon Van Bon, Marc Wauters, Markus Zberg (Rabobank), Alberto Elli (Telekom), Pascal Chanteur (Ag2r), Sal Commesso (Saeco), Servais Knaven (Farm Frites), Jacky Durand (Lotto), Emmanuel Magnien (FDJ), Arvis Piziks (Memory Card) and Fabrice Gougot (CA).

The ONCE led peloton has slowed down, so this break might be out there for a while. Sal Commesso told cyclingnews.com this morning that he was looking for an early break.

13:41 CET - 35.0 km

This is going to be a long one, as ONCE have not taken the bait. The leading 12 riders have 2"08 already to the peloton. The best placed of them is Telekom's Alberto Elli, who is 21st, at 2.15 down. Gougot is not far behind him, at 2.25 behind.

The break is being chased by a Bonjour rider, Walter Beneteau.

13:55 CET - 43.0 km

The gap is really blowing out now - it's up to 6'15 from the leaders to the peloton. This could well be a winning break, as ONCE are not going to ride yet, and Rabobank is slowing things. Question is, do Telekom or Credit Agricole want the yellow jersey this early? Elli is certainly strong enough to hang onto it for a while. Gougot as well has been riding quite strongly in this Tour.

Chasing in no-man's land, probably till his legs fall off, is Walter Beneteau (Bonjour). The team have sent Pascal Derame up to help him.

Tim Maloney's pick if the break is successful: Sal "Toto" Commesso.

14:14 CET - 49 km

The first sprint, at Quelaines-Saint-Gault Sprint (39km) was taken by Jacky Durand (Lotto) with Salvatore Commesso (Saeco) and Fabrice Gougot (CA) in second and third.

The gap continues to blow out - now at nearly 13 minutes, with Bonjour's lone twosome, Beneteau and Derame 8 minutes behind the leaders. They are not screaming along either, as the average is just over 40 km/h (which gives you an idea of how slow the peloton is going).

14:32 CET - 65 km

The gap has at last stabilised, and is even dropping a little, although it is still over 12 minutes. The two would be Bonjour pursuers, Derame and Beneteau have given up their futile attempt to bridge.

14:50 CET - 75 km

No real changes now, as the break consolidate their lead. The next sprint is in 15 kilometres, at Daumeray, and the peloton is 12'25 down at the latest check. The peloton is being led by US Postal, Bonjour, and Polti, with no ONCE riders in sight yet.

What about the odds? Here's what the English bookies have on the likely stage and overall winners today:

To win the stage: Steels 7/4, Wust 9/2, Kirsipuu 10/1.

To win overall: Armstrong 4/5, Ullrich 3/1, Olano 14/1, Julich 12/1, Jalabert 12/1, Pantani 14/1, Zulle 16/1, Escartin 20/1, Virenque 33/1, Hamilton 33/1, Jimenez 40/1, Guerini 33/1, Dufaux 33/1, Boogerd 50/1, Heras 40/1, Casero 66/1

15:10 CET - 95 km

The sprint at Daumeray (89.5km) was taken by Salvatore Commesso (Saeco), with Alberto Elli (Telekom) in second and Fabrice Gougot (CA) in third. Commesso looks to be sharpening his legs up for the finale, with one more intermediate sprint to come. Elli has improved his chances of being in the yellow jersey tonight, and needs to keep around 2'20 of this substantial lead.

15:18 CET - 98 km

The gap is diminishing now, but it is still over 10 minutes, with 100 kilometres of racing to come. The average speed of the leader's is just under 41 km/h, and US Postal and Bonjour are doing the work in the peloton. ONCE are still nowhere in sight, so they obviously don't feel pressured to defend the jersey.

If Elli could gain the yellow today, it might take the pressure off Ullrich becuase Elli could hold it until after the Pyrenees.

15:38 CET - 114 km/85 km to go

The Polti and Bonjour led bunch (with help from Postal) are taking things a little more seriously now, and have lopped another minute off the lead. They need to take a little over a minute out every 10 kilometres - quite do-able if they put their minds to it.

A crash in the bunch: Stuart O'Grady is down and is changing his wheel. However, he's back starting again. Savoldelli is also down.

15:50 CET - 126 km/73 km to go

The crash has caused a split in the bunch, which are now chasing the break quite seriously. Paolo Bettini, Erik Zabel, David Moncoutie (Cofidis), Bobby Julich (CA), Rafael Mateos (Polti) and Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r) are amongst these, some 40 seconds behind.

This evening at 19:00 there will be a presentation made by the Société du Tour de France to photographer Graham Watson, for 20 years of race photography in the Tour. He will be given a special "Médaille du Tour de France" for the occasion.

15:58 CET - 133 km/66 km to go

The split in the peloton was caused by the wind changing.direction, which caught a few people napping. The gap to the leaders is now 7'34, with 66 km to go. Bettini is back to the main bunch now, with help from his Mapei teammates.

Stuart O'Grady and Jaan Kirsipuu are not looking that good at the moment, chasing behind the second peloton after their crash.

16:13 CET - 143 km/56 km to go

The pace has picked up in the last hour or so and the overall average is now 44 km/h. Some new faces at the front of the bunch: Mercatone Uno, and ONCE are finally getting into gear. There's still a bit of work to do to bring this gap down. It's hovering at 8 minutes at the moment

16:25 CET - 153 km/46 km to go

The lead is going up again! Mercatone Uno and ONCE are doing the chasing, but it's not having an impact yet with only 46 kilometres to go. An eight and a half minute gap is going to be pretty hard to recover, and it looks like Elli will be close to yellow tonight.

The third sprint at Hommes (km 154) was won again by Sal Commesso (Saeco), from Jose Luis Arrieta (Banesto) and Alberto Elli (Telekom).

16:42 CET - 163 km/35 km to go

Still over 8 minutes, it is certain that this break will stay away, with just 35 kilometres to go and slight following winds. It is likely that we'll see a new Malliot Jaune tonight, with Alberto Elli only having to make up 2.15 on Laurent Jalabert (he has made some of this already in the sprint bonuses).

Could it be a day for Commesso, as he predicted this morning? Emmanuel Magnien is also a handy sprinter, and Francaise des Jeux would love to win a stage.

16:49 CET - 168 km/30 km to go

The peloton are driving now, with the full squads of ONCE and Mercatone Uno pushing it hard. The leaders have gone though Langeais, with 30 kilometres to go, and are still working very effectively. One other favourite for the sprint is Rabobank's Markus Zberg, who has two teammates in the break - Van Bon, and Wauters.

Depending on what the final gap is, there could be some very interesting racing over the Pyrenees.

17:03 CET - 172 km/17 km to go

Everyone is riding hard now trying to keep the gap down (or up, if you're with the leaders). Elli is assured of the real Malliot Jaune tonight, and it could take quite a bit to unseat him in the mountains. The leaders have just passed the Chateau d'Villandry.

The news at the back of the bunch is that Stuart O'Grady and Jaan Kirsipuu did not make it back on after their fall at km 112.

17:10 CET - 187 km/11 km to go

Alberto Elli is attacking, and the front riders are now sorting out the pecking order. Expect an attack from Durand, who won here in Tours a few years ago.

17:14 CET - 189 km/9 km to go

Durand, true to form attacked at km 10, but was brought back. There's a lot of slowing and speeding up at the front, but Rabobank are keeping the tempo high.

17:17 CET - 193 km/5 km to go

They're all together now, Marc Wauters (Rabobank) is the break's policeman, keeping things together if there are any attacks. Durand is sitting up the back, waiting for his chance to make a Dudu move. He won Paris-Tours in 1998, and is adjusting his straps.

17:21 CET - 195 km/3 km to go

A left turn now, about to go over the Indre river before going into Tours. Wauters continues to drive the break, The faster it is, the harder it is for Dudu to jump them.

17:24ET - 197.5 km/1 km to go

They make the the left turn onto the Avenue du Grammont, where Paris-Tours finishes every year. Wauters is still in front, keeping the pace high. Magnein, Commesso, Zberg, and Piziks are all at the back.

17:25 CET - 198.5 km/0 km to go

Arrieta attacks off the back of the group, covered by Commesso. Van Bon and Zberg on the left. Leon Van Bon wins it from Zberg and Magnien! Knaven in fourth. What a performance by the Dutch boys today. Rabobank did it to perfection, and now we have a Telekom rider in yellow.

Robbie McEwen wins the bunch sprint for 13th from Marcel Wust, over seven and a half minutes back.

Results (unofficial)

1 Leon Van Bon (Ned) Rabobank		      4.28.06 (44.3 km/h)
2 Markus Zberg (Swi) Rabobank
3 Emmanuel Magnien (Fra) La Francaise Des Jeux
4 Servais Knaven (Ned) Farm Frites
5 Arvis Piziks (Lat) Memorycard-Jack & Jones
6 Alberto Elli (Ita) Team Deutsche Telekom
7 Fabrice Gougot (Fra) Credit Agricole
8 Salvatore Commesso (Ita) Saeco-Valli & Valli
9 Jacky Durand (Fra) Lotto-Adecco
10 José Luis Arrieta (Spa) Banesto
11 Pascal Chanteur (Fra) Ag2R Prevoyance
12 Marc Wauters (Bel) Rabobank			0.13
13 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Farm Frites		7.49
14 Marcel Wüst (Ger) Festina

General classification after stage 6:

1 Alberto Elli (Ita) Telekom 		    18.58.40
2 Fabrice Gougot (Fra) Credit Agricole		0.12
3 Marc Wauters (Bel) Rabobank			1.17
4 Pascal Chanteur (Fra) Ag2R Prevoyance		2.56
5 José Luis Arrieta (Spa) Banesto		3.08
6 Jacky Durand (Fra) Lotto-Adecco		3.27
7 Salvatore Commesso (Ita) Saeco-Valli & Valli	3.52
8 Servais Knaven (Ned) Farm Frites		4.31
9 Arvis Piziks (Lat) Memorycard-Jack & Jones	4.38

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