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July 07, 2006

Stage 6 on the road

It's Tom Boonen's last chance to win a stage wearing the yellow jersey today, as tomorrow's time trial is likely to completely reshuffle the general classification leaderboard.

Fabio Sacchi dropped out before the stage, leaving 171 riders in the peloton.

The suicide break of the day is a quality one: 2004 Paris-Roubaix and 1998 Tour stage winner Magnus Backstedt, French national champion Florent Brard, and Anthony Geslin of the Bouyges Telecom team. After the Tour's smallest rider, Samuel Dumoulin, was in the break yesterday, Backstedt, the Tour's heaviest rider at 90 kg or 198 lbs, is off the front today.

Earlier in the stage, yellow jersey Tom Boonen chased a break and found himself in a big leading group of 17 that got 1:40 on the field. CSC (which didn't have a rider in the group), Lampre, and Davitamon-Lotto led the chase, and Backstedt, Brard, and Geslin attacked out of that group.

Benoit Vaugrenard retook the white young rider's jersey lead with bonus time at the day's first sprint.

Geslin is the highest-placed rider of the 3 breakaways, in 73rd, 1:15 back, so he's the “virtual yellow jersey” or yellow jersey on the road right now.

Their gap reached more than 5 minutes, but with 70 kilometers to ride, it's about 4:15 and coming down quickly.

Today is Erik Zabel's birthday, and Bob Roll's.

OLN has moved their “mileage to ride” ribbon up, so it's not getting cut off on traditional TVs anymore.

With 60 kilometers to ride, the gap is 3:30. We'll see if the chase slows to keep them dangling out there a little longer; if they're caught, there will be a lot of riders who might try another breakaway with 50-60 k to ride.

And just inside of 30 miles/48 kilometers to ride, the gap is 3:10, with the peloton taking it pretty easy, with the front rank stretched all across the road.

At 40 k, the gap falls to 2:00. The chase is accelerating, with the front of the group thinning out. There's a final intermediate sprint just a few kilometers up the road.

At 30k, there's a long open straight, and the peloton can see the chasers. It's down to 1:30 to the breakaway. Looks like same script, different day. Over the line, it's Brard, Geslin, Backstedt for the final intermediate sprint points. That means Robbie McEwen can't take the yellow jersey tonight on bonus time.

Down around 20 kilometers to ride, and the gap is wobbling around just outside of 1:00. There's no way they'll stay away, but these guys aren't going to just sit up, either.

As the leaders go under 15 kilometers, the gap goes under a minute. Credit Agricole and QuickStep are driving the peloton, as they have been for the last hour. It's no wonder Boonen can't get a leadout train set up in the last 2 kilometers.

Less than 10 k to go, and the gap is only 22 seconds. The break is pushing hard, but the peloton is charging.

The whole Lampre team has come to the front now, and the gap is under 10 seconds with 7 k, about 4.2 miles to go. They're getting reeled in steadily now, it's down to 5 seconds, and climbing back up to 12 seconds now!

Here the field comes again, inching the gap down second by second. It's at 4 seconds with 5 kilometers to ride. Through a curve they hold the gap, and just after they come under the 4 kilometers to go flag, the Lampres and QuickSteps finally bring them back.

In the last 3 kilometers, Boonen is well-placed, McEwen near him, Lampre is taking the line up to 2 k to ride.

One Lampre left on the front, ahead of a few QuickStep riders, Credit Agricole is back 10 meters, now a Milram (Zabel?) is sitting on Boonen's wheel. Here come a couple of Rabobanks alongside Boonen, and it's 1 kilometer to race. Boonen is 7th in line, QuickStep is peeling off. Boonen is 4th, Davitamon-Lotto winds it up, and Boonen is tied up in traffic, moving right, then back left, and Robbie McEwen takes the hat trick! McEwen's got his 3rd stage win of the 2006 Tour.

McEwen's leadout man Gert Steegmans went way too early yesterday, knocking McEwen out of the sprint, and he apologized. At the line today, Steegmans threw his arms up, clearly as happy as McEwen himself.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 7, 2006 in Magnus Backstedt, Robbie McEwen, Tom Boonen | Permalink

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