Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Tour de France 2013 : Stage 6 Preview

IF there was a slight doubt about stage 5 there is absolutely no uncertainty about stage 6. This will definitely finish in a bunch sprint.

And even the profile supports this. The last real corner comes with around 3km to go and from there on in it's a virtual straight run to the line.

The route takes the riders the 176km from Aix-en-Provence to Montpellier. It crosses just one categorised climb, the cat 4 Col de la Vayede after 68km. There's nothing after this but flat roads all the way to the finish.

A breakaway will go out early on, it will be brought back. Even Spain v Tahiti in the recent Confederations Cup wasn't that nailed on!

Favourite? Really can't look past Mark Cavendish again for this. Despite his brush with bronchitis in the last week he proved yesterday that he is back to 100%. Mind even a 90% fit Mark Cavenidsh is not something that can be easily beaten!

His leadout train (and by this I mean the entire Omega Pharma Quickstep team) proved in the Team Time Trial that they are absolutely flying at the moment. Even the injury to Tony Martin is not preventing him for producing some serious power.

They were immense in stage five and I can see a repeat. The loss in the TTT has clearly hurt them, especially as the winning margin was less than a second.

Outside of this it's the usual suspects. Andre Griepel, Marcel Kittel, Alexander Kristoff, Nacer Bouhanni will all be mixing it in the final stages. Orica Green Edge have had a good tour so far ( if you ignore the bus calamity!) and have taken two stage victories. Matt Goss is their hope for another one here although the big Aussie has not been firing on all cylinders recently.

Further down and aiming for at least a  top 10 place will be Team Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen, Movistar's Jose Joaquin Rojas and Julien Simon of Saur-Sojasun.

But barring a disaster it will be the Manx Missile standing atop the podium celebrating win number 26, which will put him just 8 behind Eddie Merckx in the list of most Tour de France stage wins.



Why do people attack and get into breakaways? They never succeed!

It's a fair question. In years gone by breaks could disappear up the road inside the opening kilometres and not be seen again all day. Going back to 1990 a four man break containing Frans Maassen, Ronen Pensec, Steve Bauer and Claudio Chiappucci attacked on stage one and came home a full 10 minutes clear of the field. These four ended up sharing the yellow jersey between them for 19 days, losing it with just two days to go to eventual winner Greg Lemond.

In 2006 Oscar Periero got into a break on stage 13 and incredibly took just under 30 minutes out of the peleton. It was a break that ultimately won him the yellow jersey that year.

But these days teams, and sprinters teams in particular, rarely allow a break to stay away for the full stage. There is less stages these days for their quick men to profit from so they take every opportunity going.

So the question remains. Why do it?

In some cases it is simply a case of getting your name and more importantly the name of your sponsor on TV. Vaconsoleil for example, are pulling out of the sport at the end of the year so the current team need to showcase their talents to try and attract a new sponsor.

Europcar have been active a great deal so far. As a French team it is vital for them to be prominent throughout their home tour. Same applies to AG2R La Mondiale and Saur Sojasun.

However the overriding reason in most cases is quite simple. As the examples above prove, sometimes a break does work. And for teams like those above who don't have a top sprinter or a overall GC contender, these days represent their only chances of getting a stage win.

So expect breaks on every day and eventually one will work!

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