Take It From Carol: Tour de France Stage 6

Tour 2019 Stage 6

Wait...isn’t this the summit?

Smaller roads. Steeper climbs. Nasty stinger tacked on La Planche des Belles Filles. Stage 6 will the test the legs and hearts of the GC (general classification, yellow jersey) men as it is our first true mountain stage. As well, it will reveal much about Team Ineos.

With 7 categorized climbs (four of which are Category 1), an early breakaway (those chasing KOM dreams) will get consumed by the men who want to wear the golden fleece and stand atop the podium on the Champs-Elysees. Those with the ultimate Tour goal and the legs to achieve it must come to the base of La Planche des Belles Filles together.

This iconic Category 1 climb and summit finish has always been brutal, but this year with its “discovered” extra kilometer it might be cruel (don’t forget we have weeks of racing and the Alps and Pyrenees ahead). With its average 8.7% gradient, the base soars to a soul crushing 14% gradient. In its previous years, the finishing straight crept up to 20% gradient, but this year the riders have to tackle the “Superplanche.” This extra 900 meters includes a gravel track (well packed), but it is the last 150 meters that may finally produce the attacks the organizers hope for. With 6 categorized climbs behind them, and just about 7 km of leg searing ascent thus far.....La Planche des Belles Filles finishes with a gradient that reaches 22-24%.

Riders to look for today:

All of France is rooting for Thibaut Pinot (Grouparma-FDJ) (he lives just near this climb), but the descents just don’t suit him. On team Movistar, look for Alejandro Valverde where experience and age might be an asset (or just age). Team Astana will see if its Jacob Fuglsang has recovered from Stage 1 and their hopes alive. Thrown into the mix is wild card Julian Alaphilippe (Quickstep). Typically this one day classic rider wouldn’t be suited to the stage (or dreams of yellow at the finish), but his form is on point and sometimes you discover you are capable of more than you believed.

Of course, Stage 6 is all about Team Ineos. With co-leaders Bernal and Thomas, Team Ineos will no doubt control and set the pacing for the day. And we have the opportunity to learn two things: which of their two co-leaders should the team throw in for and does the “Superplanche” create the fireworks intended. Ineos is a well-oiled, lethal machine, but a bit boring to watch as they effortlessly control the race. Having a bit of competition within the team creates some tension and the Tour organizers are doing their best this year to make it more difficult to methodically control the race. 

The hope: Team Ineos will attempt to tear the peloton apart with an aggressive tempo and give us a mano y mano battle between its two co-leaders. No doubt this is WHO the Team is and they are more than capable. As well, the unknown created by having co-leaders might give wings to the other GC contenders. Perhaps, they will take advantage and attack relentlessly, fracturing Team Ineos (unlikely but hey isn’t that the beauty of suffering....the unlikely emerges).

What we do know: Stage 6 will cause the sprinters to question everything they know to be true, it will fracture the peloton, it will bring the GC riders into the light and maybe, just maybe, reveal the overall winner. 

Today is must watch Tour t.v.

TangentsCarol Bevil