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Tour Report Stage 6

 

In stark contrast to stage 5 – which more closely resembled an ‘active recovery’ ride than a day in the world’s biggest bike race – stage 6 gave us a dynamic contest and the breakaway’s first victory over the peloton.

The route passed through the magnificent but little-known Cévennes National Park, an area appreciated for the breathtaking rocky landscape, high mountains and steep valleys. A strong group of eight riders broke away, with the gap soaring to six minutes before the first classified climb.

While the break took the lion’s share of the spoils, Irishman Sam Bennett took the opportunity to extend his lead in the green jersey by a further three points, (taking his advantage to twelve) by winning the intermediate sprint from the peloton.

Although GC contenders were expected to be tested in today’s summit finish upon the storied Mont Aiguoal, Ineos controlled the peloton at a relatively low pace, allowing the break to maintain a significant lead of three minutes. Mont Aigoual is best known as the climb featured in Tim Krabbé’s 1978 novel ‘The Rider’ in which the fictional Tour de Mont Aigoual takes place. Today, it was Alexey Lutsenko who wrote his name in the history books.

With 22km to go Tour first-timer Neilson Powless attacked the break, with Lutsenko the only rider able to respond. Unfortunately for Powless, his inexperience – or as his general manager Jonathan Vaughters put it, “enthusiasm” – let the young American down. Five kilometres later Lutsenko managed to power away from the American and paced his way to a career best victory.

Almost a minute later Jesus Herrada finished second, passing the dropped Powless in a desperate attempt to bridge the gap to Lutsenko.

Team Bahrain McLaren achieved their objectives for the day by not losing any time on the yellow jersey, as leader Mikel Landa arrived safely in the peloton closely guarded by Damiano Caruso. With not much to gain from chasing down the hefty lead the break had developed, the team protected their leader over the three classified climbs of the stage. Landa remains on the same time as the other GC favourites and speaking after explained it had been a fast day, with Pello Bilbao adding that “the racing was really aggressive before the start of the climb and we had to fight for position. We used the power of the team in the best way and arrived with no problems”.

Another successfully controlled day for Team Bahrain McLaren and the circus takes one step closer to Paris.

Thanks to Russ Ellis and Chris Auld for capturing the race. See more of their work by following them on Instagram @cyclingimages & @cauldphoto