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94th Tour de France - ProT

France, July 7-29, 2007

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Stage 6 - Friday, July 13: Semur-en-Auxois - Bourg-en-Bresse, 199.5km

Live commentary by Laura Weislo and Bjorn Haake

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 13:00 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:30 CEST

Bonjour and welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage six in the 94th edition of the Tour de France. Today will be the last chance for the sprinters to make a bunch gallop before the Alps will put the hammer down on the fast men. The stage today is just shy of 200 kilometres and runs from Semur-en-Auxois to Bourg en-Bresse. While there are a couple of category four climbs in the way, the last 60 kilometres are run over flat terrain.

13:08 CEST   
Bradley Wiggins is the first rider to attack and quickly builds a lead of one minute.

13:10 CEST   
Wiggins attacked at the two-kilometre mark. The peloton is still in a lull and 16 minutes into the race the lead is quickly building. The Cofidis rider has now over two minutes on the rest.

Both knees bandaged
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

13:13 CEST   
Alexander Vinokourov of Astana spent five hours in the hospital yesterday evening and despite his rather severe injuries to his knees he has decided to start today. Hopefully he can make it to the finish. It'd be a pity to have to abandon the Tour after a silly crash, especially when you are the hot-on favourite.

13:13 CEST   
We have six riders who have abandoned the race so far. 183 riders remain following these withdrawals:

  • Stage 1: DNF Eduardo Gonzalo Ramirez (Spa) Agritubel - broken collarbone
  • Stage 3: DNS Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Discovery Channel - broken thumb stage two
  • Stage 4: DNF Xabier Zandio Echaide (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne - broken collarbone
  • Stage 5: DNS Rémy Di Grégorio (Fra) Française des Jeux - broken elbow stage four
  • Stage 5: DNF Brett Lancaster (Aus) Team Milram - sciatica
  • Stage 6: DNS Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra) Cofidis - multiple injuries

Current situation

  • Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis)
  • Andry Grivko (Team Milram)
  • Peloton at 2.20

13:15 CEST   
We departed from Semour-en-Auxois a few minutes ago, the historic capital of the Auxois region. It is part of the Côte-d'Or ('Gold coast') department, which is one of the original 83 departments (today there are 96). The town of 5,000 inhabitants is situated next to the river Armançon and has a medieval core with cobbled streets, picturesque staircases and old gateways. Most streets lead to the centre of town, the 13th century church of Notre-Dame.

13:18 CEST   
Bradley Wiggin's is now in the virtual leader jersey. He slipped into it at the 14 kilometre mark, when his lead was already up to 5'40". It is quickly building, currently at 7'40"

13:19 CEST   
Andriy Grivko (Milram) has counter attacked and is chasing behind the Cofidis rider.

13:23 CEST   
Geoffroy Lequatre (Cofidis) did make it to the finish yesterday way outside the time limit. The limit was around 16 minutes off the winner's mark, whereas Lequatre made it almost 45 minutes later. The jury reinstated him, following his unfortunate crash. However, his injuries were too severe, so his directeur sportif indicated yesterday that he will not be able to continue.

13:23 CEST   
Bradley Wiggins isn't going for the overall classification. He told our reporter John Trevorrow before stage five that he wanted a stage win, something he'd have to change his standings to achieve.

"I probably need to lose a bit of time because I am too high up on GC to be allowed any leeway," Wiggins explained. "But the Alps will probably help out there."

He wasn't sure the Alpine stages would be as exciting as the fans might hope. "I think the Alps will be quite disappointing. I don't think they will live up to expectations. No one is going to have the bollocks to do anything in those stages. Vinokourov, Moreau all those guys are going to play it so cautiously. It's partly because the last days in the Pyrenees are just so tough."

13:25 CEST   
Grivko is currently a minute in front of the field, but still 6'40" behind Wiggins. It will be a long chase for the Milram rider before he can see the tail end of the British time trial specialist.

13:27 CEST    23.5km/176km to go
We are now 23 kilometres into the race, with the first sprint coming up in another 30 kilometres.

Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis)
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
(Click for larger image)

13:29 CEST   
Wiggins might also be trying to pep up the French crowds, which he viewed as a bit disappointing. Of the prologue in London, he said, "It was a great day for cycling and the English crowds were just brilliant." But upon entering French territory things aren't so exciting. "It has been a bit disappointing coming back to France. The crowds here haven't been as interested. Belgium was fantastic, but a bit of the same old in France, the crowds yelling abuse, calling us slackers..."

13:33 CEST   
Grivko didn't make it and is back in the field now, which has picked up the pace a little bit. The acceleration also cut down the lead of Wiggins to 6'10"

13:34 CEST   
We've got a few pretty banged up riders in the peloton today, and they'll be happy to sit in and attempt to heal up on this flat stage before the race hits the Alps this weekend. Andreas Klöden (Astana) was said to have fractured his tailbone, just a hairline fracture, so he is continuing. It's a very painful injury for a cyclist, but the tough German is soldiering on.

Current situation

  • Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis)
  • Peloton at 7.40

13:38 CEST   
Benjamin Noval (Discovery) was back at the team car getting some attention. The Spaniard was the second rider to crash into the back of a team car in this Tour after Xabier Zandio (Caisse d'Epargne) did the same on stage one. Noval had to have stitches last night, and his cuts were fairly deep.

13:41 CEST    31.5km/168km to go
The lead has gone back out and the field has decided for now to let Wiggins do his solo effort on the front. He is 8'40" ahead and will surely soon have a lead in the double digits.

13:42 CEST   
Besides hosting the start of stage six, Semour-en-Auxois has also made a successful bid to host the French National Championships in 2008, which will take place the last weekend of June.

13:43 CEST   
Astana has two injured team leaders, and now they've lost another man. No, not a rider in the Tour, but the German rider Matthias Kessler, who tested positive for testosterone in April. The team has announced that the B sample was positive so Kessler is now "fired from the Astana Cycling Team with immediate effect".

13:45 CEST   
And the lead continues to increase with every pedal stroke. It is now at 9'30".

13:47 CEST   
The stage finish today is Bourg-en-Bresse and one rider will have particularly fond memories of it: Thor Hushovd won the stage into this town in Burgundy in 2002.

13:50 CEST   
Discovery Channel's DS Johan Bruyneel blamed Noval's crash on the Bouygues Telecom team director. On the team's website, www.thepaceline.com, he explained that the French team's car was hosting some media, and was not paying attention on the rapid, technical descent. The team wasn't sure Noval would start, but managed to depart for stage six.

Current situation

  • Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis)
  • Peloton at 9.30

13:53 CEST    38km/161.5km to go
Brad Wiggins is at the 38 kilometre mark in Sainte Sabine, chugging away with 9'30 still. The peloton is not too concerned about a single man being off the front.

13:56 CEST   
Wiggins' lead is actually more than eleven minutes now! The Cofidis team desperately wants a stage win. They've had a man in the break nearly every day, but each time the move has been caught by the sprinters.

14:03 CEST   
There aren't as many prizes up the road for Wiggins as his teammate Chavanel was able to pick up yesterday. While Chavanel took seven of the eight climbs on stage five to move into the polka dot jersey, Wiggins faces only two climbs and one intermediate sprint today.

The sprint comes at kilometre 51.5 in Bligny-Sur-Ouche, and is followed closely by the first climb - the Cote de Grandmont at kilometre 55. The category four hill is just2.4km long, averaging 5.1%.

He'll then have a long, hot day in the saddle before he reaches the Col de Brancion at the 138km mark. This one is also fourth category, and is 3.5km with a shallow 3.6% grade.

14:08 CEST    48km/151.5km to go
Well on his way to the first sprint of the day, Wiggins has opened up an astonishing 14 minutes on the peloton.

14:11 CEST   
Bruce White reminds us that today is the 40th anniversary of the death of Tom Simpson - the British rider who collapsed on the Mont Ventoux in the 1967 Tour's 13th stage.

14:17 CEST    51km/148.5km to go
As Wiggins approaches the first sprint, he won't have to worry about fighting anyone for the line - they're napping in the warm summer sun some 15'40 behind!

We apologise for the mistake on our stage description today - it is not, we are glad to report, the Col de Briançon - but the Col de Brancion. Two extremely different things.

14:20 CEST   
The race won't get to Briançon until Tuesday, when stage nine finishes there. The riders will face a much more challenging route to Briançon than they do to Brancion - they'll go over the Galibier, a monster of a climb that shoots to 2645m. The first climb today is a mere 479m high. Barely enough to notice.

14:21 CEST   
Bradley Wiggins told Cyclingnews before the start that the stage suits him and he will try to be in a break. He also revealed that he is really popular in France with his 60's Paul McCartney style haircut but less impressed with his French team's ability to find the way in its own country. "We tend to get lost on the way to start or to the hotel."

14:23 CEST    55km/144.5km to go
Wiggins is still moving away from the peloton as he approaches the climb - his maximum lead was more than 17 minutes, but will surely start coming down soon... surely.

14:29 CEST   
Wiggins is just out for a nice tempo ride today, getting a bit of training and just spinning along in his small ring. The peloton is saving its energy for the mountains which come tomorrow, and in force on Sunday. With Wiggins not a serious threat for the overall classification, it will be up to the sprinters to decide whether they want to battle for a stage win or take a day off.

  • Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis)
  • Peloton at 15.25

14:33 CEST   
It looks as if the sprinters are battling it out today, as there was action at the first intermediate sprint. Tom Boonen (Quickstep) took the four points left after Wiggins took the maximum, beating Barloworld's speedster Robert Hunter.

14:36 CEST    63.5km/136km to go
It's quite a warm day - 22 degrees and nice and sunny. The riders will have plenty of sunblock on today. They don't want to end up like Magnus Backstedt (Liquigas) who had to have a bit of skin cancer removed earlier this year.

14:38 CEST   
Fabian Cancellara changed his bike right on the top of the KOM. He is now fighting his way back to the peloton.

14:38 CEST    64.5km/135km to go
At the Grandmont climb, polka dot jersey Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) took the points behind ahead of Juan Manuel Garate (Quickstep).

Current situation

  • Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis)
  • Peloton at 15.25

14:41 CEST    66.5km/133km to go
The mood in the peloton is rather relaxed at the moment. Several of the Cofidis riders are patrolling the front, still taking it easy since their man is up the road - wa-aaaa-aaa-y up the road: more than a quarter of an hour ahead!

14:41 CEST   
The Cyclingnews crew is reporting that the weather is finally living up to its July reputation. After the Belgian winds and French thunder showers in the first few days, it is heating up and we have currently 27 degrees.

The Australian fans are out in force, recognised the Cyclingnews crew and in their true hospitality even when travelling thousands of kilometres away from home immediately offered to help out the troubled Cyclingnews, who's car had been broken into just before the start. Brecht Decaluwé still hasn't shaved since the beginning of the Tour.

14:43 CEST   
Now that the riders have entered a relatively spectator-free area, they've taken advantage of the privacy to have a mass natural break. Just about the entire Astana team stops.

Yellow jersey Cancellara switches back to his regular machine decked out with ultra deep dish rims.

Fabian Cancellara's Cervélo SLC-SL
Photo ©: James Huang
(Click for larger image)

14:45 CEST   
Cancellara's Cervelo, complete with deep dish Zipp 808 tubular wheels, was profiled recently. Quite the flashy machine!

14:46 CEST   
One rider after the other gets back ton the peloton after the natural break. Christophe Moreau just has made it back. Fabian Cancellara also is back after his double bike change. The pace is rather slow right now.

14:51 CEST    73.5km/126km to go
As Wiggin's lead reaches a new high of 18 minutes, we see Alexandre Vinokourov looking like a mummy, all wrapped in gauze, coming back from his natural break. He's got Ivanov alongside, and their pace is unhurried.

14:54 CEST   
The peloton finally decided that 18 minutes was more than enough, and it's time to chase. Quickstep has put a man on front and now the peloton, which had been bunched up and cruising along, is suddenly single file on a rolling section of highway.

Current situation

  • Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis)
  • Peloton at 16.02

14:57 CEST    78.5km/121km to go
Now that the peloton is chasing, Wiggins has put the chain into the big ring and is getting down to work. He's got some seriously high socks on today - practically tube socks. They're flashing bright white as he ticks over the pedals. He still has 16'03, but his lead is coming down.

Cedric Vasseur
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

15:00 CEST    80.5km/119km to go
Cédric Vasseur (Quickstep) and Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Team CSC) are responsible for setting the brisk tempo at the front of the peloton. These two work-horses have been on the front for kilometre after kilometre this Tour - and they've brought the gap down to 15'10.

15:02 CEST    81.5km/118km to go
Wiggins is in the town of Chagny at the moment, while the peloton is still well outside any type of civilisation. They're in the midst of endless stretches of farmland set on rolling hills.

15:04 CEST   
Mario Kummer, the directeur sportif of Astana, chatted with Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes before the start and confirmed that Vinokourov and Klöden have trouble with their injuries form yesterday and there is always a chance either of them cannot finish the Tour. He expects a bunch sprint for today as it is the last chance for the sprinters. Kummer confirmed that the crash happened towards the end when the pace was already high and people were trying win the stage and suggested it wasn't intentional for the other teams to put his rider out of contention.

15:05 CEST   
Chagny is the site of one of the race bible's danger zones today - there is a narrowing in the road that we hope all the rider will be aware of. Vinokourov is near the back with the entire Astana team just trying to make it through the rest of the stage. He has most of the team near him.

15:11 CEST    85.5km/114km to go
Lampre throws some weight into the chase along with Vasseur and Arvesen - they're bringing Wiggins back to 13'37 now. We'll probably see that gap go up temporarily while the peloton has lunch in 4km at the feed zone in Fontaines.

They'll want to be more careful while getting their musettes today - yesterday poor Geoffroy Lequatre (Cofidis) crashed when a feed bag tangled in his wheel. It was just one of the many mishaps that have befallen the peloton this year.

Current situation

  • Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis)
  • Peloton at 11.48

15:19 CEST   
The pace today is once again well below the scheduled speed. The slowest predicted speed of 43 km/h would have put the peloton in the feed zone 25 minutes ago, and Wiggins just went through.

15:21 CEST   
Leif Hoste (Predictor - Lotto), gauze on his left elbow from a crash earlier this week, is adjusting his own handlebars while riding at 35km/h - certainly not a wise move. He's got the 4mm allen wrench in hand and is adjusting the angle. Surely he could get a mechanic to do that for him, but he's an independent kind of guy.

15:22 CEST    92.5km/107km to go
10'24 for Wiggins now, and our pursuit World Champion is out of the saddle and stretching his legs on a small incline. We had a reader ask if he could get his time trial machine for his long pursuit today, but that would be against the rules. Riders aren't allowed to have aero bars on non time-trial stages.

A castle along the route
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

15:28 CEST    94.5km/105km to go
The lead of Wiggins is down to 9'00 on the nose as the peloton enters the feed zone. And we have another crash! Enrico Degano (Barloworld), the man who started first in the prologue in London is down.

15:30 CEST   
The feed zones are a dangerous place where riders have to balance their attention between steering their machines and sifting through their bags. The yellow jersey and the whole CSC team were among the first to get their feed - the safest position.

15:30 CEST   
The rolling hills in the wine region host many castles along the route. The riders who just passed the feed zone, will not find any wine, however, in their musettes. The liquid consist more of water and sports drinks that will replenish the riders' energy.

Filippo Pozatto (Liquigas) wins
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

15:32 CEST   
Degano stayed seated on the road for several minutes getting medical attention.

15:38 CEST   
Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown talked with yesterday's stage winner, Filippo Pozzato. Pozzato had predicted his stage win to Cyclingnews a day ahead of time. When asked about stage 12, which is another good finish for the Italian from Liquigas, he said "Well, it's one thing to say it and another to do it."

15:39 CEST   
Daniele Bennati also had a good day yesterday, finishing third. But he told Gregor Brown that he didn't think today would be a good day for him as he's not a pure sprinter.

15:47 CEST    106.5km/93km to go
Wiggins is passing the town of Buxy, where many people have come out to cheer him on. If he'd have more time he could enjoy the scenery of this medieval town, but the field is chasing and he has to press on.

15:48 CEST    107.5km/92km to go
So far, Wiggins is holding on strong - but his gap is 7'52 and hovering. We've had a few emails regarding the slow speeds of the Tour this year, and wondering if this is an indication that the riders are 'clean' now. Our calculations are putting the average for the Tour so far at around 40.5km/h - on par with average speeds of the past few years: 2006 was 40.78, and back in 2002 the final average was 39.56km/h. Of course those average speeds include all the mountain passes, while our stages have been relatively flat so far.

The slow speeds probably have little to do with whether riders are doped or not, but rather it likely has more to do with team tactics.

Current situation

  • Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis)
  • Peloton at 7.52

15:52 CEST    109.5km/90km to go
Wiggins is passing a lovely vineyard - one of the many here in Burgundy. He's starting to look a little fatigued after more than 100km alone in front - understandably so.

Last we heard on our crash victim Degano, he was up and riding but we will be sure to confirm as soon as we hear more.

15:55 CEST   
In the moment we have no more news on Enrico Degano of Barloworld, who crashed in the feed zone. He is reported to be behind the field, but still in the race. We hope it won't be the seventh abandoning in this year's Tour. 33 riders have already crashed and everybody is waiting for the mountains to start where there is less danger of entangling with others in the big field. Just the danger of going down one of the ravines at 90 km/h.

15:56 CEST    112.5km/87km to go
The sprinters are showing more interest in the stage now, with Quickstep putting six men near the front to chase for Tom Boonen. Thor Hushovd hasn't sent his men forward yet, but he knows this is his last chance to win a stage for a while. He's been suffering from some back pain, and was dropped on the climb early yesterday.

6'46 for Wiggins.

16:03 CEST   
Wiggins is out of the saddle, but it is more to stretch his body a bit. The hard part about such a solo break is the monotony of pedaling along in the same position for hours on end. Lance Armstrong was even annoyed at having to ride the 20 kilometres in stage one of the 2005 Tour in the same position. "I was looking for something, a turn or an uphill, to be able to get out of my position," he said at the time. At least he passed Ullrich after a while.

16:04 CEST    116.5km/83km to go
Yesterday's breakaway man Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) is trying to get rid of his 'farmer's' tan - he's got his sleeves rolled up a la Mario Cipollini.

16:05 CEST   
As stated earlier it is warm today and Philippe Gilbert has his sleeves rolled up all the way. He has to be careful to not get sunburned. The riders are very dark on the exposed skin, but really pale everywhere else. Those are the parts that are really sensitive to the sun.

Current situation

  • Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis)
  • Peloton at 5.51

16:09 CEST   
Andreas Klöden has a big pink therapeutic tape on his left leg. It runs from the thigh across the knee down to his shin. It should help stabilize his knee a bit, although he is no doubt mostly worried about his tail bone.

16:10 CEST   
Andreas Klöden is currently inside the team cars and is getting helped back into the field by teammate Gregory Rast.

16:13 CEST   
There is a separate road on the right hand side of the main road where the field is pedaling and a few people are roller blading along, trying to match the speed of the peloton. The recreational 'riders' can't do it, however, as the field is, while not going all out, riding along at a brisk tempo.

16:13 CEST    119.5km/80km to go
The lead for Wiggins is coming down steadily now as the sprinters start feeling the rumble of hunger for green jersey points. Boonen trails Zabel by just four points, and McEwen is a further 14 back in third, tied with Freire. South African sprinter Robert Hunter is one point behind that pair - a fine result for his Pro Continental Barloworld team.

Hunter has been showing his speed and fearlessness in the past few stages, but doesn't have the lead-out train of Lampre or Quickstep, so it's been hard for him to get in the right position, but a 4th, 5th and 2nd place is not bad!

16:13 CEST   
Andreas Klöden is back in the field.

Current situation

  • Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis)
  • Peloton at 4.49

16:17 CEST   
Quickstep is having a bit of a discussion, while Gilbert, with the sleeves still rolled up, is stretching his leg. The outcome of the discussion on the front is that the pace is lowered and everyone gets to enjoy the country side a bit more.

16:18 CEST   
Bradley Wiggins is waving his team car up to his right hand side. He is taking on another drink and is chatting with his directeur sportif. His lead is now past the 5 minutes again.

16:20 CEST    126.5km/73km to go
Wiggins has less than 1km to go to the sprint in Cormatin, and while he's holding 4'34 now, it's dropping now that Quickstep has put their team on the front to chase.

16:22 CEST   
Quickstep is on the front with their complete squad and they likely want Boonen to take out some points of Erik Zabel. Wiggins takes the sprint without contest.

16:23 CEST   
Quickstep really hammering now, the lead down to 3.24.

16:24 CEST   
Tom Boonen launches his sprint, with Zabel on his wheel!

16:24 CEST   
Zabel is desperately trying to get around the Belgian, but he can't do it.

16:27 CEST   
Boonen and Zabel were tied in the points classification after the first intermediate sprint where Zabel was shut out by Robert Hunter from getting any points. With Boonen's four points for second (behind Wiggins), Zabel was still holding the lead because of his higher standing on GC.

However, with Boonen's four additional points to Zabel's two in that second sprint, the Belgian is now two points ahead in the green jersey competition.

16:28 CEST   
The acceleration before the sprint has deeply cut into the lead of Wiggins, but no doubt that the peloton will take it a bit easy again now. Zabel looks like he needs to catch his breath a bit. He was right on Boonen's wheel, but just couldn't get out and past the Belgian, letting his head hang in frustration. The lead is now back out to 3'38".

16:34 CEST   
Alessandro Cortinovis, the Italian on the Milram team, revealed his strategy for stage 5 this morning to Gregor Brown. "My job was to take care of Erik [Zabel] in the last 20 kilometres and ride for him until I am cooked. He wanted to get the stage and the Green Jersey and the whole teams was at his disposal."

Unfortunately, today didn't go so well, and with the two points collected so far by Zabel, the points' jersey is back on Boonen's shoulders, who got eight points today. There are still 35 points on the line for the winner in Bourg-en-Bresse.

16:36 CEST   
Wiggins is approaching the climb. It is 3.5 kilometres long and averages 3.6%.

16:37 CEST   
Poor Klödi, in addition to his crash his directeur sportif is saying that he also suffers from stomach trouble. He is currently seen at the back of the field.

16:37 CEST    136.5km/63km to go
The domestiques are important on a long and warm day like today's 199.5 kilometre stage. Lilian Jégou (Française des Jeux) is coming back from the team car with his jersey full of bottles - he hands one off to Gilbert and then heads up through the peloton to find more teammates.

16:38 CEST   
many spectators are lining the roads on the climb. A beautiful day out in the French country side. Wiggins goes up ion a steady rhythm. He has one more kilometre to the top.

16:40 CEST   
Wiggins is out of the saddle, going up the last 250 metres.

16:41 CEST    138km/61.5km to go
Wiggins passes the top, where the barriers prevent any accidents with the enthusiastic spectators

16:42 CEST   
Cofidis is going to the front now. After the Boonen- Zabel showdown it is the turn of Sylvain Chavanel to get the glory.

16:44 CEST   
Wiggins comes down the hill at a fast speed and almost can't make the sharp right turn at the bottom. He comes desperately close to the hay balls that have been put at the bottom.

16:46 CEST   
The field comes up and it is Garate, Chavanel and probably Cheula sprinting it out. Garate beats Chavanel over the line.

16:48 CEST   
The col de Brancion is accompanied by the château of the same name, overlooking the valley.

16:51 CEST   
Charteau is now on the front for Crédit Agricole. Obviously, Thor Hushovd wants to repeat his sprint victory in Bourg-en-Bresse, something he achieved in a two-up sprint in 2002.

16:53 CEST   
The peloton is now on straight roads and the pace is going up. This spells bad news for Wiggins, who is still pedaling ahead of the field.

16:55 CEST   
Patrice Halgand has flatted. Even with the higher speed of the peloton, he should be getting back easily. CSC is now going to the front and Jens Voigt is ahead of his teammates by a few metres.

16:56 CEST   
But it is not an attack, they are just taking control one more time of the peloton. Last chance for a natural break. Chavanel, who lost the sprint for second at the KOM against Garate, is back at the team car and taking on some more fluids.

16:59 CEST   
Wiggins flatted and he throws his wheel into the ditch.

Mark Cavendish (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
(Click for larger image)

17:00 CEST    150.5km/49km to go
This happened with 49 kilometres to go. He gets going quickly again, but nonetheless loses some precious time that he'd rather spent riding.

17:01 CEST   
While Sylvain Chavanel is done with his work for the day, the guy he shares the last name with, Sébastien Chavanel of Française Des Jeux, is looking forward for another fast end to the day's activities. He wants to finally get a sprint win, though he admits that the finale is always very nervous here at the Tour.

17:02 CEST   
T-Mobile is gathering at the front as well. They have two sprinters, Mark Cavendish and Bernhard Eisel, to choose from. The lead of Wiggins is still at 5'01"

17:07 CEST    155.5km/44km to go
The predicted finish time with the slowest schedule is at 17:28. With still 44 kilometres they will be late again. But the field has realized the urgency of the situation and the lead drops quickly, it's now at 3'50"

17:07 CEST    155.5km/44km to go
It's five o'clock and it's time for happy hour - there is a group of young men on the side of the road as Wiggins passes who look as if they've been celebrating happy hour for quite some time. They're stripped to the waist and jumping up and down while waving a French flag. A few of the more enthusiastic fans we've seen so far!

Current situation

  • Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis)
  • Peloton at 3.39

17:12 CEST   
Thomas Dekker and Michael Rasmussen are towards the back of the field. Rasmussen is looking forward to tomorrow.

17:13 CEST    159.5km/40km to go
Milram is now also on the front, it's another 40 kilometres for the sprinters to take back the 3'41" that Wiggins is ahead.

17:16 CEST    161.5km/38km to go
Just 38 kilometres to go for Wiggins, and he's got 3'34 on the field at the last intermediate sprint in Pont-de-Vaux. There are quite a few fans cheering the speeding Brit on, and this time he takes the hard right bend a little more carefully.

17:16 CEST   
The field is heading over the Sâone river, crossing it via a steel bridge. A small boat is passing underneath the bridge at the same time the peloton is atop.

17:17 CEST   
Wiggins goes through a very narrow stretch of road after the sprint - we hope the peloton knows about this narrowing because we do not need any more crashes! Our delicate hearts can't take any more shocks.

17:18 CEST   
While the chase is full on now at the back, the fisherman is not too disturbed. Hopefully the noise of the bicycles doesn't chase away the fish.

17:18 CEST    163.5km/36km to go
The peloton came in to the sprint with Quickstep on the front. Zabel didn't even try to contest it, and Boonen took the four points ahead of his team-mate.

17:20 CEST   
Correction, it was Boonen's Doppelganger Steven De Jongh and Gert Steegmans taking second and third - mopping up points to keep Zabel from gaining any ground.

17:22 CEST    165.5km/34km to go
It's been a long, hard chase for the domestiques in the field - T-Mobile's Burghardt is looking taxed. Wiggins meanwhile is still looking determined, although he's breathing a bit harder than he was 100km ago.

We've received word that Enrico Degano, the Barloworld rider who crashed in the feed zone, has abandoned.

17:24 CEST   
The lead is dropping quickly now and Wiggins is likely swallowed up by the field to open up the way for the sprinters. The peloton is strung out.

Current situation

  • Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis)
  • Peloton at 2.21

17:26 CEST    168.5km/31km to go
The lead has now dropped under the two-minute mark. Since the riders are behind schedule again, they have more spectators. People coming home from work are able to watch the end of the race.

17:29 CEST   
Wiggins has been passing vineyard after vineyard today, along with hay fields and forests which form a patchwork quilt of various greens that make this landscape so lovely from above.

Wiggins is struggling now, with Credit Agricole doing the lion's share of the work in the peloton for Big Thor 'thunder thighs' Hushovd.

17:31 CEST   
Our mountain leader today is also our most aggressive rider. Sylvain Chavanel, team-mate of Mr. Wiggins up front, has the red backnumber that distinguishes the rider who spent the most time off the front on the previous stage. Chavanel initiated the breakaway on stage five.

17:32 CEST    172.5km/27km to go
Wiggins' lead is really starting to fall as the day wears on. Charteau is still pulling along with Predictor-Lotto, and they've brought it down to 1'13.

Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

17:33 CEST   
We hope nobody has any allergies in the peloton because a dried hay field has been disturbed by the television helicopter, and there are bits of hay flying everywhere.

17:33 CEST   
Robbie McEwen also has sent some of his teammates towards the front. He must be feeling better today, following his bad luck in the first week. After the crash in stage 1, he also was boxed in a couple of times and has not been able to come close to a second win.

17:35 CEST    174.5km/25km to go
The peloton is just over a minute behind Wiggins, and Chavanel is sitting at the back of the bunch, looking a little bored. He is swerving around and standing up on the pedals and coasting along in the draft.

Current situation

  • Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis)
  • Peloton at 1.08

17:39 CEST    176.5km/23km to go
The sprinters' teams aren't quite ready to bring back Wiggins, and they've completely sat up. The peloton, once a long thin line that stretched far down the road is now compact. Saunier Duval is up front with four, one T-Mobile, two Predictor-Lotto riders and a Milram thrown in for good measure. They're just setting tempo now, waiting to pounce.

Wiggins' lead is up to 1'36 now that they've eased.

17:40 CEST    177.5km/22km to go
The refreshment moto comes alongside Wiggins, who apparently is not thirsty and doesn't even give it a second glance. He looks over his opposite shoulder in dismay - where are they? Surely the peloton is coming, no?

17:41 CEST   
Robbie McEwen was certain before the start that it would be a sprint. Talking to Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes he mentioned yesterday's stage was really hard and because of it he expected everyone to be a bit tired today. Since it is a flat stage it will be last chance for the sprinters, "so all those things together should make it a sprint."

Asked about the chances of Zabel contending for green in Paris, the multi-lingual Australian said that Zabel "hasn't won a stage but he has been consistent every day. He is in the green because he survived the climb yesterday and got some points."

Current situation

  • Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis)
  • Peloton at 1.47

17:43 CEST    178.5km/21km to go
Lampre is bringing up Bennati now as Gerolsteiner puts three men near the front. However nobody is taking the place of Charteau on the very front of the peloton which is still lined across the road.

17:44 CEST    179.5km/20km to go
Wiggins is passing under the 20km banner, a full 40 minutes behind the slowest schedule. Merde! We want our happy hour!

17:46 CEST    180.5km/19km to go
Cat, meet Mr. Mouse. Mr. Mouse? Meet Mr. Cat. The peloton is gambling now, playing games, call it what you may but Wiggins still has 1'44 as the peloton passes the 20km banner and sees the Devil finally on the side of the road.

17:47 CEST    181.5km/18km to go
Gerolsteiner has put two men in front of Charteau, and are starting to string out the bunch, but we're afraid it's just because of a short descent. Milram rolls through now, followed by T-Mobile. 1'38 still for Wiggins and his sideburns.

17:49 CEST    183km/16.5km to go
Wiggins, the winner of Olympic gold in the pursuit in Athens as well as silver in team pursuit, is putting those abilities to good use here in Montrevel-en-Bresse. The gap is coming down a bit more quickly now - just 1'17 with Charteau back leading the chase.

17:50 CEST    183.5km/16km to go
Charteau gets a bottle from a team-mate, no more feeding from the cars as they're inside the last 20km. The peloton is weaving through town and take a hard right. The speed is picking up now - 1'09 for Wiggins with Milram taking over the chase.

Current situation

  • Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis)
  • Peloton at 1.01

17:51 CEST   
The lead is dropping quickly now and is now under the one-minute mark.

17:52 CEST    184.5km/15km to go
The peloton is again waiting until they're good and ready to make the catch, and are across the road and slowing up.

17:53 CEST    185.5km/14km to go
The bunch splits at a traffic median - still keeping a steady tempo as Wiggins is out of the saddle trying to hold the 50" lead. He's hurting now, lips dry, breathing laboured... not a comfortable time for Wiggins.

17:54 CEST    186.5km/13km to go
The camera comes up alongside Wiggins for a last bit of video before the cars are pulled out of the gap - the peloton has him in sight now just 30" behind.

17:55 CEST    187km/12.5km to go
The road is long and perfectly straight heading into Bourg-en-Bresse. They've got some high corn fields on the right and a long expanse of asphalt to traverse. Just 25" for Wiggins now, and he's looking back to see where they are.

17:56 CEST    188km/11.5km to go
Like many roads near the Tour's finishing towns the roads have been freshly paved, and area deep, dark black highlighted by fresh white lines. The peloton is taking its time - keeping 24" between itself and Wiggins with 11.5 km to go.

17:58 CEST    189.5km/10km to go
There are several traffic islands on the way into the finish today, and all of them are protected by bales clad in red and white stripes. The peloton should have no trouble getting through safely as they are going at a steady but not hectic pace at the 10km banner - still 20" back.

17:59 CEST   
Now Quickstep has brought a line of men to the front to take control Milram and Predictor keep going on the left, and the train of blue takes the right side along with T-Mobile.

18:00 CEST    191km/8.5km to go
T-Mobile gets the front while Quickstep is trapped on the far right. Wiggins is sight of them all - it has to be less than 15" now.

18:02 CEST    192km/7.5km to go
Bottles are being thrown to the side of the road as the peloton reaches the 8km to go mark just behind Wiggins. No team has picked up the pace enough to reel the lone leader in yet - he's putting in a good effort.

18:03 CEST    192.5km/7km to go
Vino is at the back looking unhappy. He gives a sign - a slice across the throat - perhaps indicating that he's done.

18:03 CEST    192.5km/7km to go
Wiggins is done - he comes back into the fold after 190km. Now T-Mobile takes the lead.

18:04 CEST    193.5km/6km to go
Milram, T-Mob, Lampre and now Liquigas are all gathering near the front with the Quickstep team trying to get organised.

18:04 CEST    194km/5.5km to go
Rabobank has a man up there, too while the climber's team of Euskaltel can be seen all at the back. Predictor takes the lead for McEwen.

18:05 CEST    194.5km/5km to go
Theres' a bit of switching and diving going on as the sprinters try to get into position. The peloton is still bunched up at the 5km to go banner and T-Mobile and Milram are at the front. Quickstep has been swamped.

18:06 CEST    195km/4.5km to go
QS, FdJ and Lampre are trying to get organised - moving up on the right.

18:06 CEST    195.5km/4km to go
Wiggins has dropped off the back now as the pace picks up. 4km to go and still no organisation - the bunch is spread across the road.

18:07 CEST    196km/3.5km to go
The finish looks to be a straight shot, and P-L takes the lead and then Wegmann goes!

18:08 CEST    196.5km/3km to go
Wegmann was trying to lead his men up but lost them and got too far ahead. He came back and is leading Quickstep and Milram at 3km to go.

18:08 CEST   
Wegmann pulls off and it's Tosatto now, hammering but not stringing out the bunch.

18:08 CEST    197km/2.5km to go
Around a roundabout, all get around safely. Credit Agricole is second and Zabel and Dean are near the front.

18:09 CEST   
Tosatto gets out of the saddle and sprints, then pulls off - Boonen coming up on the right.

18:09 CEST    197.7km/1.8km to go
Milram takes over with two in front of Zabel in green.

18:10 CEST    198.3km/1.2km to go
Quickstep coming up on the right and it's Rabobank and Dean coming on...

18:10 CEST    198.5km/1km to go
Milram has control but Rabobank is going now - Rabo takes the front and Quickstep has their man

18:10 CEST    199km/0.5km to go
Dean takes the lead on the right and T-Mobile comes past!

18:11 CEST   
Gerolsteiner has the lead now and here comes Zabel

18:11 CEST   
Quickstep comes outside on the right and the dash to the line is ...

18:11 CEST   
Hunter gets chopped and Boonen takes the stage!

18:12 CEST   
Freire was coming up fast but is denied again.

18:12 CEST   
Bennati and Hunter were also right up there, but Boonen gets his win at last!

18:13 CEST   
Sébastien Chavanel was 4th behind Zabel, beating Hushovd to the line on the opposite side of the road.

18:18 CEST   
That was a long day in the saddle for Wiggins, who is looking almost as red as his Cofidis jersey at the finish.

That's it for another marathon stage in the Tour. Come back for stage seven when we hit the Alps and the real action begins!

Provisional Results

1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep - Innergetic                                   5.20.59 (37.29 km/h)
2 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank                                                
3 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram                                                     
4 Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) Française des Jeux                                      
5 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole                                               
6 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre - Fondital                                          
7 Robert Förster (Ger) Gerolsteiner                                                
8 Robert Hunter (RSA) Barloworld                                                   
9 Romain Feillu (Fra) Agritubel                                                    
10 Murilo Fischer (Bra) Liquigas  

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