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With a perfectly timed attack after the top of the final climb, Stybar held off the sprinters to win stage 6 of the Tour de France 2 seconds ahead of Sagan and Coquard; Martin defended yellow but possibly broke his collarbone

Photo: Sirotti

BRYAN COQUARD

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DECEUNINCK - QUICK-STEP

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PETER SAGAN

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TONY MARTIN

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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ZDENEK STYBAR

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09.07.2015 @ 18:32 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) continued the great Tour de France for Etixx-QuickStep when he launched a perfectly timed attack to win stage 6. Accelerating just after the final climb with less than 1km to go, he managed to hold off the small group that sprinted for second, with Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) having to settle for another runner-up spot. However, Stybar’s teammate Tony Martin crashed on the final climb and even though he defended the overall lead, he might be out of the race with a broken collarbone.

 

The Tour de France has been a rollercoaster for Etixx-QuickStep. During the first six days of the race, they have had lots of highs and lows but there mixed emotions have never been more evident than they were after today’s sixth stage of the race.

 

The team came agonizingly close to the yellow jersey with Tony Martin three times in a row and have come up short in the sprints with Mark Cavendish. However, the team enjoyed a magical moment in stage 4 when Martin won the cobbled stage and finally took the coveted leader’s jersey and defended it yesterday.

 

Today they ended the stage with another victory as Zdenek Stybar made a big coup to deny the favourites with a perfectly timed attack. However, the team have probably also lost the leader’s jersey as Martin crashed in the finale. He managed to cross the finish line by being pushed up the final climb by his teammates and so defended the lead due to the 3km rule but what looks like a broken collarbone is likely to spell the end for the strong German.

 

All was set for a dramatic finale after what had been the first calm day when the peloton sped under the 15km banner 35 seconds behind the early breakaway of Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka) who had taken the mountains jersey, Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar) and Kenneth Vanbilsen (Cofidis). At this point, things had finally become hectic as Lotto Soudal, Etixx-QuickStep, Movistar, Giant-Alpecin, Tinkoff-Saxo and Astana were fighting hard for position with their trains lined out on the front.

 

Vanbilsen decided to attack and his companions were unable to respond. He managed to defend a 30-second advantage by the time he entered the final 10km when the first riders started to get drop due to the brutal pace.

 

Quemeneur and Teklehaimanot were brought back as BMC hit the front with Rohan Dennis. They briefly let Trek and Ag2r set the pace before Dennis got back to work and gradually brought Vanbilsen back.

 

With 5km to go, the gap was only 10 seconds and it was now Daniel Oss riding hard while the punchy sprinters fought hard for position. Matteo Trentin took over for Etixx-QuickStep and fought hard to keep the Giant train and Ramon Sinkeldam at bay.

 

With 3km to go, the fighting Vanbilsen was caught as Koen De Kort hit the front for Giant. However, it was Etixx who won the battle as Mark Renshaw led Martin and Mark Cavendish to the bottom of the final climb where Geoffrey Soupe and Julien Simon took over.

 

Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin) moved up to position John Degenkolb but he got an unintentional gap and as Simon didn’t want to ride on the front, the pace in the peloton went down. That caused a touch of wheel between Martin and Bryan Coquard (Europcar) and the leader went down with Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC). While the latter three seemed to be unhurt, it took a long time for the German to get back on his bike.

 

Meanwhile, the fight for the stage win continued and it was Luca Paolini who led Alexander Kristoff to the front and brought Geschke back. That’s when Stybar saw his chance as the crash had split the peloton and left most without domestiques. The Czech launched a powerful attack and quickly got a big advantage.

 

As they crested the summit and hit the slightly rising finishing straight, Reinardt van Rensburg tried to lead the chase for MTN-Qhubeka but when he blew up the pace went down. It took some time before Joaquim Rodriguez started to chase for Katusha but at that point it was too late.

 

Stybar managed to hold off the peloton by 2 seconds and so the surviving sprinters were left to battle for second. Kristoff did a long sprint but it was Peter Sagan who took another second place by easly beating Bryan Coquard (Europcar) and Degenkolb.

 

Martin crossed the line several minutes later but defended his 12-second lead over Chris Froome (Sky). As he is unlikely to start tomorrow, the Brit will be the virtual leader in tomorrow’s stage which should be one for the sprinters as it only has an early category 4 climb before having a completely flat second half.

 

A stage for puncheurs

After yesterday’s wet and windy stage, the riders faced another nervous ride on stage 5 which brought them over 191.5km from Abbeville to Le Havre. The final 120km took place along the rolling Normandy coast where the riders tackled three category 4 climbs and several small uncategorized hills. The stage had a nasty sting in its tail as there was a small 800m climb with an average gradient of 7% that summited just 800m from the finish, meaning that it was a stage more for puncheurs than for sprinters.

 

The riders had sunny but relatively cold conditions when they headed out on their neutral ride through Abbeville. One rider was missing as Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) broke his arm yesterday and has had to return to Switzerland.

 

The break takes off

Unlike in the past stages, the first attack was not the successful one. Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) attacked straight from the gun but while Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) chased back from an early puncture, the peloton brought him back after 3.5km of racing. Instead, Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar) attacked at the 5km mark and he was joined by Kenneth Vanbilsen (Cofidis) and Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka) in what would be the early break.

 

At the 6km mark, they already had an advantage of 1.15 and it was 2.25 one kilometre later. After 10km of racing, it was 5.15 and the trend continued as it was 7.20 when they had done 20km.

 

Lotto Soudal and Giant-Alpecin take control

As the peloton entered Normandy, the gap had gone out to a massive 8.55 and the peloton was still cruising. It even reached 12.30 at the 28km mark before Lotto Soudal hit the front.

 

The Belgian team started to bring the gap down. It was 11.55 after 33km of racing and as Giant-Alpecin also came to the fore, it was reduced to 11.15 with 150km to go.

 

Teklehaimanot wins the KOM sprint

Georg Preidler (Giant-Alpecin) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) had the task to set the early pace and they gradually brought the escapees back. With 125km to go, the gap was only 5.55 and for the first time in this year’s race there was a very calm atmosphere.

 

Many had feared the ride along the coast but with virtually no wind even Chris Froome and Alberto Contador took natural breaks just before they reached the sea. Meanwhile, the escapees prepared themselves for the first KOM sprint where Teklehaimanot managed to hold off Vanbilsen to pick up the only point on offer.

 

Another point for Teklehaimanot

Moments later, the escapees battled it on the second climb and here Vanbilsen tried to anticipate his Eritrean rival. However, Teklehaimanot had no trouble passing the Belgian and so picked up his second point.

 

Martin had to work his way back to the peloton after a puncture while Alejandro Valverde went down in a small crash but there was no stress as De Gendt led the group over the top of the second climb 5.05 behind the escapees. Preidler had briefly stopped his work but was quickly back on the front.

 

The gap comes down

The peloton reached the feed zone with a deficit of 4.30 and for a long time De Gendt and Preidler kept the gap stable at that mark. They had to wait until the final 70km before the pace increased when the fight for position started and Preidler and De Gendt nearly got swarmed by the big teams that wanted to be on the front.

 

The faster pace meant that the gap was down to 2.45 as they entered the final 60km and things had again calmed down as Preidler and De Gendt went back to work. With 55km to go, things got hectic again though and the gap was melting away.

 

Voeckler goes on the attack

With 50km to go, it was only 1.30. Four kilometres later, Quemeneur accelerated to win the intermediate sprint ahead of Vanbilsen and Teklehaimanot. In the peloton, Thomas Voeckler did the lead-out for Coquard who did a long sprint but it was Degenkolb who won the battle followed by the Frenchman, André Greipel, Sagan and Cavendish.

 

Voeckler decided to use the situation to go on the attack as the gap was only 45 seconds. The peloton slowed down and quickly saw the gap go out to 2.15.

 

Giant-Alpecin in control

Voeckler never got any closer and while Damiano Caruso (BMC) hit the deck, he decided to sit up. Meanwhile, Giant-Alpecin started to chase again as Albert Timmer hit the front.

 

With 30km to go, the gap was down to 1.40 as they fight for position was again about to start. Meanwhile, Quemeneur tried to attack as the front trio tackled the final climb but Teklehaimanot reacted quickly before easily winning the sprint and taking the mountains jersey.

 

Preidler and Timmer set the pace until they got swarmed by all the big teams. With 20km to go, the gap was only 1.00 and Ivan Basso, Michael Schär, Imanol Erviti, Preidler, Tim Wellens and Michal Golas were lined out in the front tow of the peloton. The gap stayed around that mark for a little while before the peloton upped the pace and when the gap was down to just 35 seconds with 15km to go, Vanbilsen launched his attack that started the finale.

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