97th Tour de France
Stage 6 - Montargis to Gueugnon - 227.5 km (141.1 mi)
09 July 2010
Go figure... just when people were getting ready to leave Mark Cavendish dead in the water as far as the competition for the green jersey to the top point-earning sprint specialist in the Tour de France, he goes and strings together dominant back-to-back victory showings before the race hits the Alps. His sprint win in Gueugnon today, taken over Tyler Farrar (Garmin) as the American persevered despite his crash-induced injuries from prior in the week to maintain runner-up on the stage, gave him twelve already for his young career. He has now matched the number of Tour stage victories that his mentor, six-time green jersey winner Erik Zabel, amassed in a legendary sixteen-year career.
Just last year we were talking about how Cavendish -- after first equalling and then surpassing compatriot Barry Hoban for the British stage-wins record (and this before his win on the Champs-Elysees in the final stage, which brought his total for 2009 to SIX individual stages after collecting four in his maiden 2008 Tour) -- was among the fastest men in cycling and a front-runner for the sprint jersey at every tour he contests. It appeared in the first few stages this year, though, as if something was shaking up the Manxman. Cagey Italian veteran Alessandro Petacchi, he of the asthmatic lungs and that damned evil inhaler, was leaping out of the pack again and again in his triumphant return to the Tour following a bogus suspension and further purgatorial period in the hinterlands of professional cycling. Cavendish was all off in his tactics; lead-out man Mark Renshaw often looked better positioned than the man who only had to follow his wheel.
But then he goes and silences his doubters authoritatively in a 30-hour window that saw the town of Montargis play a key role in Cavendish's resurrection after being left for dead in the points race. This medieval village south of Paris, a former residence of the king after being ceded to France by the house of Courtenay in 1188 and the current home to 15,000 residents, marked the point where the Manx Missile finally hit his apogee when he held off all comers to win Stage 5 yesterday. Today, after a night's rest, the peloton headed off from the same well-preserved town in the Lorient for its south-southeasterly march on the longest stage of the 2010 Tour de France toward the finish in Gueugnon...
Once again, the ubiquitous breakaway went up the road and swiftly built up a lead. Within the first five kilometers, the trio of Mathieu Perget (Caisse d'Epargne), Sebastian Lang (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Ruben Perez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) had gained two minutes on the main field. Within twenty more kilometers, they would have a seven-minute gap built up. By the first intermediate sprint of the day in Saint-Fargeau, as Lang beat out Perez and Perget in that order for the maximum six points, the peloton was lagging eight minutes behind, content to string out the leaders just a little bit more.
Why, one might ask, are breakaways allowed to run up the road with such frequency? Especially on a long stage like today's 227.5km haul, the peloton is apt to conserve as much energy as possible for when the heaviest wattage is needed to contest the finish. By allowing a trio of non-threats to ride up the road, it serves two purposes: for those that make the breakaway, it gives them and their sponsors some valuable free advertising space on televisions worldwide... and for those behind, it is a simple matter of mathematics to ensure that a catch is effected at just the right point so that another breakaway cannot emerge and the sprinters will not be too worn out from sitting on the front.
Of course, not all breakaways get caught. We saw at this year's Giro d'Italia one of the most astounding splits in the field from a GC standpoint in recent cycling history. Sometimes breakaways gain minutes... other times they survive with just meters to spare. But they can survive, if the peloton does not remain vigilant. But as the century-to-go point came, a hundred kilometers left in the stage, the Saxo Bank team united with several sprinters' teams to start reeling in the catch at the end of their line.
The maximum gap having peaked at eight minutes miles back on the road, we were looking at the catch coming within the final twenty kilometers -- on average you expect the peloton to be able to pull back a minute every 10km or so. The peloton was staring at a six-minute deficit when the terminal mark rolled around, well within calculations. Two of the four Category 4 climbs had already been summited, Perget jumping ahead of his breakaway companions both times to grab six points in the King of the Mountains competition. At the second sprint point, with 63km left to go as Lang won a second time in Moulins-Engilbert, the gap was down to just three and a half minutes.
The trio at the front would stay clear to collect the last intermediate sprint in Luzy, sandwiched between two more Perget climbing exhibitions, leaving the peloton with nothing left to focus upon but the finish. With twenty kilometers left to Gueugnon, the gap had dwindled into the tens of seconds. Perget, after taking the mountain points, sprinted off ahead of his companions, hoping to stay away to the finish. But it was not to be, the catch coming just inside ten kilometers from the line.
All that was left now was jockeying for position. Lampre was setting up its sprint for Danilo Hondo, and Renshaw and Cavendish jumped on to their last wheel. Slingshotting of that train within the final kilometer, Renshaw amped up the pace as the meters blurred by at nearly fifty miles an hour. He peeled off with 150 meters remaining, leaving the 25-year-old to add to his already impressive resume with a twelfth career stage victory. He's well past Hoban now, equal with his mentor and right back in the thick of the green jersey hunt. After being a whopping 65 points back at the end of Stage 4, Cavendish has clawed to within 33 of Hushovd. A few more wins by the youngster would really make things interesting. Stay tuned, because once the Manx Missile gets launched there's no knowing how far it can soar...
RESULTS - STAGE 6
- Mark Cavendish (Columbia) 5:37:42
- Tyler Farrar (Garmin)
- Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre)
- Robbie McEwen (Katusha)
- Gerald Ciolek (Milram)
- Sebastien Turgot (Bbox-Bouygues)
- Jose Joaquin Rojas (Caisse d'Epargne)
- Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky)
- Robbie Hunter (Garmin)
- Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) all s.t.
- Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) 28:37:30
- Geraint Thomas (Sky) +0:20
- Cadel Evans (BMC) +0:39
- Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin) +0:46
- Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) +1:01
- Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) +1:09
- Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) +1:19
- Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) +1:31
- Alberto Contador (Astana) +1:40
- Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega) +1:42
Nicolas Roche (AG2R)
- Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) 118
- Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) 114
- Robbie McEwen (Katusha) 105
- Jose Joaquin Rojas (Caisse d'Epargne) 92
- Mark Cavendish (Columbia) 85
- Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) 82
- Sebastien Turgot (Bbox-Bouygues) 79
- Geraint Thomas (Sky) 74
- Gerald Ciolek (Milram) 71
- Daniel Oss (Liquigas) 54
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS
- Jerome Pineau (Quick Step) 13
- Mathieu Perget (Caisse d'Epargne) 12
- Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) 8
- Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) 8
- Sebastian Lang (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 7
- Jurgen Van De Walle (Quick Step) 6
- Maxime Monfort (Columbia) 5
- Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne) 4
- Matthew Lloyd (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 4
- Ruben Perez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 4
BEST YOUNG RIDER
- Geraint Thomas (Sky) 28:37:50
- Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) +0:49
- Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) +2:04
- Jose Joaquin Rojas (Caisse d'Epargne) +2:12
- Tony Martin (Columbia) +2:15
- Arkaitz Duran (Footon-Servetto) +2:29
- Jakob Fuglsang (Saxo Bank) +2:38
- Kristjan Koren (Liquigas) +2:47
- Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma-Lotto) +2:50
- Rui Alberto Faria da Costa (Caisse d'Ep) +2:54
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