93rd Tour de France - ProT
France, July 1-23, 2006
Results & report
Stage 6 - Friday, July 7: Lisieux - Vitré, 189 km
Complete live report
Hello all you cycling freaks out
there, and welcome back to our Live coverage of the Tour de France. Today's
stage 6 takes us 189 kilometres from Lisieux to Vitré in Northwestern France.
There is one Cat 3 climb on the itinerary at km 27 - the Côte de la Hunière,
1.7 km at an average gradient of 6.7 percent), but the rest of the stage is
only bumpy. Three intermediate sprints await us at kms 46, 116 and 162, so today
might be another day for Boonen et al. to show what they're all about - and
for the World Champion to finally achieve his first 2006 TdF stage win...
Today's stage is departing under
cloudy skies, with temperatures barely reaching 20° Celsius. There is a risk
of rain showers, but if it does come down, only a few drops are expected. The
sky will clear up a little as we move further Southwest from Normandy into the
Bretagne, where a light headwind waits for the peloton, but rain showers at
the finish cannot be ruled out at this time. We'll see how it evolves.
At the start, a it has already shortly
poured down just after the riders where signing in. The rain has stopped now,
and the bunch is moving towards the official start just outside of town. We
have one non-starter today: Fabio Sacchi (Milram) had to abandon the Tour due
to respiratory problems caused by a bronchitis.
First attack comes at km 9: Stéphane
Augé (Cofidis) - he is joined by Giuseppe Guerini (T-Moblie), Vicente Garcia
Acosta (Caisse d'Epargne) and David Lopez (Euskaltel). A few clicks later, Magnus
Backstedt (Liquigas) joined in, too.
13:20 CEST 12km/177km to go
The group of five
has 20 seconds over the peloton, where Antony Geslin (Bouygues) just made a
move to bridge up to them. But it looks like he won't succeed, as the break
in front is working hard to get away.
13:21 CEST 14km/175km to go
Geslin is back in
the bunch, and the five leaders have increased their advantage to 45 seconds.
This could be it...
13:27 CEST 19km/170km to go
But the bunch still
looks undecided on the fate of these first challengers. The gap is getting smaller
again, now at 32 seconds.
As the bunch moves on at the foot
of the Côte de la Hunière, the teammates of dotted jersey wearer Jérôme Pineau
drive the tempo.
In the climb, Backstedt as well as Augé have problems.
13:38 CEST 28km/161km to go
So it's the same
strategy as in the last stages at Bouygues - they want to hold on to the mountains
jersey for as long as they can.
Guerini and Lopez manage to hold
the French riders off and take 4 and 3 points respectively at the summit, while
Pineau grabs 2 for third place. The Italian and the Spaniard fly down the descent
now, and have a bit of a gap.
...But the bunch is faster. The two
are caught at km 32.
Apparently, the duel over winning the jersey for the best mountain climber
may be more intense than expected. The two who got it on yesterday were Walter
Bénéteau of Bouygues Telecom, whose teammate Jêrome Pineau is leading the mountains
classification and Saunier Duval's David de la Fuente, who is second in the
rankings. The two mixed it up previously, being fined for "irregular behaviour"
Writing on www.sports1.de, CSC's Jens Voigt described the scene this
way: "The two were riding next to each other and all of a sudden, the Spaniard
hits Bénéteau full in the face! It was really loud, just like in a boxing match!
Bénéteau's helmet and glasses practically flew off his head! He swerved, because
of course he hadn't been expecting anything like that."
"Behind them everyone was shouting, 'Hey, are you crazy? If you're going to
fight, go to the side of the road! Leave us out of your problems!' Bénéteau
didn't blink an eye but went directly to the commissaire. I think that they
will throw de la Fuente out of the race."
The attacks continue, but nobody
is able to get away.
The bunch is already nearing Villedieu-Les-Bailleul (km 46), where the first
sprint of the day will be held. Maybe this is one of the reasons why a breakaway
cannot be established.
Crédit Agricole's Thor Hushovd was very annoyed yesterday about his relegation
on Wednesday. The sprinter, whose overall goal was the Green jersey, is now
41 points behind Robbie McEwen, and has dropped the thought of reaching his
goal. "I looked at my sprint about 20 times," he said. "It's not me who is at
fault, it's the commissaires. I do hold my line, and Bernhard Eisel comes from
behind. But he, too, does everything right. That's the way it is in a sprint...
"To get relegated for that is nonsense to me. I'll stop chasing the Green jersey,
to me it's dead. With 40 points down on McEwen, it's impossible. My only goal
now is a stage win. The commissaires made a mistake, that's only human, but
they shouldn't come back on their decision, neither - that would be even worse."
Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) and Benoit
Vaugrenard (Francaise des Jeux) have taken a little distance off the front,
followed by French champion Florent Brard (Caisse d'Epargne), Anthony Geslin
(Bouygues) and Christian Knees (Milram).
And Vaugrenard takes the sprint points
ahead of Augé and Brard, after the chasers joined the leading duo at km 47.
They are now five against the bunch behind.
14:14 CEST 54km/135km to go
The five still have
a small gap of about 30 seconds, and while Michael Albasini (Liquigas) has tried
to catch them, he failed and is now back inside the bunch.
It was a pretty fats stage start:
46,9 kilometres were ridden in the first hour.
We have a pretty interesting
group countering now: Pavel Padrnos (Discovery Channel), Patrik Sinkewitz (T-Mobile),
Sylvain Calzati (AG2R), Peter Wrolich (Gerolsteiner), Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank),
Axel Merckx (Phonak), Tom Boonen (Quickstep), Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole),
Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux) and Magnus Backstedt (Liquigas). They
are gaining ground on the five escapists!
Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) and Laurent
Lefèvre (Bouygues) are also within the chase group, who has joined the leaders
at km 60. We have now a lead group of 17 riders, including the maillot jaune!
14:29 CEST 70km/119km to go
This huge breakaway,
almost a little peloton itself, increases its lead at the moment. It has already
over one minute on the main field. This is unusual!
Erratum: it is not Christian Knees
from Milram, but Iker Camano from Euskaltel who is part of the lead group.
14:37 CEST 74km/115km to go
now at the front of the bunch, working to reduce the gap. It would be very odd
indeed if a breakaway with yellow jersey Tom Boonen would get through, and McEwen
to sprint for 18th!
Backstedt, Brard and Geslin go for it themselves,
Lampre and CSC are also working to
reduce the gap, while the group in front is disorganised. Backstedt, Brard and
Geslin got away, with Hushovd trying to reach them. Boonen and the remainder
of the break are chasing more or less.
Boonen, Hushovd etc. are caught -
they sat up and let themselves be swallowed by the Lampre-led bunch.
Off the front, Backstedt, Brard and Geslin are still away.
14:47 CEST 84km/105km to go
Stuart O'Grady has
fallen back behind the field, and is talking to his directeur sportif through
The bunch is now riding very slowly, recuperating
from that fast start. The break already has 1.22 minutes over them.
14:52 CEST 86km/103km to go
The lead of the three
escapists is rapidly increasing: over 2.30 minutes in just a few kilometres.
Boonen is taking a drink from a teammate.
In front, the three are
now working well together, with Brard taking long turns.
A quick weather update: Sorry to
say it's still sort of grey up in the sky, and there might be a few raindrops
coming down here and there. The riders probably enjoy the moderate temperature
of about 20° Celsius today though, after the heat of the first Tour stages.
There is a light breeze blowing from the West-Southwest, which means there is
a head- and side wind for most of the time.
Quickstep are leading
the bunch. Looking relaxed.
14:59 CEST 93km/96km to go
The leading trio is
at the feed zone in Bagnoles-de-l'Orne now, grabbing their musettes. Let's see
how long it takes for the bunch to get there.
As the race situation is back to
"normal" for a fattish sprinter's stage, let's take a look at our reader e-mails.
Andrew, an Aussie living in Switzerland, has had an interesting idea regarding
the fight between De La Fuente and Walter Bénéteau (see above). "Let's take
this de la Fuente idea further. For the long (and sometime boring) flat stages,
they should have intermediate fighting sprint points where anything goes - kicking,
biting, punching, head butting (a la Robbie McEwen) etc. Points for the top
3 in these fighting sprints go towards the "Hardman" jersey - which should be
15:05 CEST 98km/91km to go
The riders in the
bunch are now also stuffing food into their pockets. The gap to the break has
exceeded 4 minutes. There are beautiful French Chateau's to see in this part
of the country, too, and inside the villages, spectators abound as usual in
Bobby Julich hasn't taken his train
coat off yet though - the risk of further showers is just too great.
In front, Brard is doing an excellent job leading. He also has great time trial
Daniel from Cincinnati, Ohio, is
"all for the 'Hardman' competition to increase the level of interest as well
as danger during the long, flat stages." However, he does wonder, "would the
podium girls awarding the jersey kiss the rider on the cheeks or kick him in
the groin?" Either, in his estimation, would be fine.
Keep 'em coming,
15:16 CEST 105km/84km to go
Julich has now given
his rain jacket to his directeur sportif, Alain Gallopin, in the team car. All
the riders are either eating or chatting away. This is the rest period before
the great finale today. Voigt an O'Grady are leading now, also talking to each
The break has an advantage of 5.11 at this moment.
A Rabobank rider has punctured in
the back of the bunch. Some of his teammates are waiting for him - it's Oscar
Freire. He's getting back on, slowly.
Bas in the Netherlands suggests a
white jersey for our fantasy Hard Man competition - "to spot the blood for extra
points. We can make the Young rider Jersey red, makes him a good target for
Karl from Colorado writes, "Just imagine the panic
if a break of 'regular' riders is about to be bridged to by the top two or three
in the Hardman competition. I bet they wouldn't just sit up like breaks often
do when the peloton catches them."
Or, as James Sandberg, writes,
"Each TDF rider should be allowed to have a frame pump to poke into the front
wheels of their competitors to ‘slow down’ their sprints or breakaway attempts."
All these pretty castles on the roadside remind me of the days of knights jousting...
15:36 CEST 119km/70km to go
The advantage of
the break is staying the same now - a little over 4 minutes. The sky is still
grey, but no rain at the moment. Let's hope it stays that way as we don't want
to see any injured riders for real, do we?
Backstedt does a turn. The other
two riders in the break can definitely ease up a lot behind the tall Swede!
But he's not the one to work the most; in fact it's Geslin who leads most -
he is also the best-placed rider on GC in the group.
The race is moving on towards Vitré
on pretty narrow roads, through beautiful hay fields and green pastures. Many
spectators build encouragement signs at the roadside, also for the French football
team, which is playing against Italy in the World Cup final on Sunday.
Yesterday's breakaway Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R) even had the word "France" shaved
into the hair on the back of his head.
15:57 CEST 134km/55km to go
But the break's gap
is getting thinner: only 3.20 now with 55 kilometres to go. All three ride hard,
but might not be able to hold off the charging bunch. They still have time,
...And so do we. Daniel Benson has
another suggestion for our Hard Man competition: "Put the hard man in a black-and-white
striped jersey, a la an escaped prisoner on the rampage. He gets to physically
attack 5 riders during the day. The riders attacked can gain or lose points,
as judged by the ASO, for the effectiveness of parrying the blows.
"Points are also given to riders who have the ability to slap intruding fans
at 50 kph without losing balance, while cameras, mobile phones and other paraphernalia
nicked from fans accumulate bonus points.
"On the Champs Elysées,
a Wall of Death will be constructed and the Hardman du Tour will be pitted against
three cycling fans, chosen by lottery and dressed up as famous murderers, Jean-Marie
LePen and a grizzly bear." Jeez!
Erik Zabel (Milram) is back inside
the bunch after a puncture. Like any leader, he was brought back on by two teammates.
Johan Vansummeren (Davitamon) is
again doing his excellent job on the Tour, imposing a rhythm on the bunch in
front. The man is a beast! Crédit Agricole, Rabobank and Quick.Step are also
working to reduce the gap or at least keep it within certain limits.
Will Robbie McEwen take his third Tour victory today, or will the World Champion
finally get his?
16:12 CEST 144km/45km to go
Florent Brard gets
a bottle from his team car. He looks focused, although the gap is now reduced
to 3 minutes. The countryside is bumpy, but it might not be enough for the break
to last, especially as there is a light headwind.
In the back, Alexandre
Moos is getting some bottles for his Phonak teammates.
16:19 CEST 151km/38km to go
Vansummeren is still
driving hard in the front of the bunch, and reducing the break's advantage further.
The race is now happening on a larger, straight road.
Finally, before we go back to the
race for good, Jos de Groot added one more tweak to our Hard Man competition:
"Riders who gain no Hard Man points at all should be used for target practice
at the annual 'Tom Steels Bidon Throwing Contest'" Now, how's that? 'Nuff said.
16:29 CEST 161km/28km to go
You can't honour
these helper's achievements enough. It's only because Boonen has guys like Vasseur,
Tosatto - and all thew others - that he the bunch able to catch a break like
this. It's a lot of hard work, and they seem to be flat out now on this long,
straight road towards, where the finale will also be fought out on a very long
The leaders take shorter turns now.
They still hang in there, though, showing a great performance. Brard got another
energy gel from his team car.
Anthony Geslin, who is now leading,
finished third behind Boonen and Valverde in last year's World Championships,
remember? With big beast Backstedt and the French champion, this trio isn't
easy to catch...
They're at the 25km banner, with the gap down to
almost one minute.
Chris Brewer reports for thepaceline.com
from the finish line: "Despite low hanging clouds, the final 5 kms is dry right
now and temps 24C here in Vitré. From 5000m the first 1000m is downhill and
sweeps left into town. As the road goes moderately uphill into Vitré there is
a nice little castle to the left at the 3 km to go banner.
riders will continue to climb slightly for about 500m looking right at a cathedral
in the center of town. A right-left turn puts them into a little neighbourhood
and the road flattens out for a bit. Under the 2km banner and the road goes
up again a little for 200m before bending to the right and setting up an 1800m
false flat run in to the finish line."
16:46 CEST 171km/18km to go
Known in the English
speaking world as the 'voice of cycling', TV commentator Phil Liggett just wrote
in to give us his prediction for today's stage: "Look for Christian Vandevelde
of CSC to take a flyer as the breakaway is reeled in. I expect him take the
victory by 3 seconds." Thanks, Phil!
The bunch seems to have eased
up a bit in the chase. They don't want to move in on the break too soon... The
gap is at 1.07 now.
Bram Tankink (Quickstep) is driving
the bunch, together with a Rabo rider and his teammate Tosatto, as the leaders
reach the 15 km to go banner. Still going strong, especially Brard, but they'll
probably feel the breath of their chasers in their necks soon.
gap is under the famous 1 minute-mark.
16:54 CEST 178km/11km to go
Jimmy Casper (Cofidis)
just punctured. He hasn't been very lucks these last few days, after winning
stage 1 in Strasbourg. His teammates bring him back on.
The sky is
getting darker. Cross your fingers... ah, now a little bit of rain has started.
It's only a light drizzle, but still.
The gap is down to 30 seconds. There's more wind blowing now, too.
Rabobank is working for Freire as
they pass under the 10 km mark.
Brard is going flat out in front,
really driving hard. 19 seconds.
The peloton moves in on them. Backstedt
is suffering. The bunch can see them now, and the motorbikes are getting out
of there. Brard is looking back.
Not to be outdone by Phil, Dave
Harmon from Eurosport reckons Jimmy Casper (who just punctured) will get up
again in a bunch sprint!
17:02 CEST 184km/5km to go
The bunch will be
together again for the finale. The three riders gave their everything, but it
wasn't enough. Well done anyway. The breakaway will be over in a minute, but
the peloton is just anticipating the moment.
17:03 CEST 185km/4km to go
30 metres as the trio
comes into Vitré. That's it. The Lampre boys are charging, too.
17:04 CEST 186km/3km to go
are driving the bunch. McEwen has hidden somewhere.
Freire is there, Boonen 10th or so.
Another loop, at the castle.
17:05 CEST 187km/2km to go
The lead out at the
moment is less messy than the last few days.
17:06 CEST 188km/1km to go
The finish straight!
Lampre still leading. Pozzato, Tosatto and De Jongh are ready for Tom just behind.
Freire holds Boonen's wheel, as McEewn
is still further behind. Now it's on!
And McEwen did it perfectly again
with Steegmans! Third victory!! Second Bennati, Third Boonen.
Steegmans is the perfect locomotive,
even though the sprint was much more organised today. They outsmarted everyone
again. Boonen keeps Yellow, though.
Thanks for having joined in on the
fun again today. We'll be back with the first long time trial in this Tour tomorrow
- a decisive day for General Classification before we finally move to the mountains!
Be sure to tune in, and thanks again for all the brilliant ideas today!
1 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 4.10.17
2 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
3 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step-Innergetic
4 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Francaise Des Jeux
5 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole
6 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
7 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram
8 Luca Paolini (Ita) Liquigas
9 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto
10 Inaki Isasi (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
General classification after stage 6
1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step-Innergetic 29.21.00
2 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 0.12
3 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile 0.21
4 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank 0.25
5 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel
6 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole 0.27
7 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel 0.35
8 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 0.36
9 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 0.37
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