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July 13, 2007

Stage 6 on the road

Both of Astana's injured riders started this morning. Andreas Klöden has a hairline fracture of the coccyx, while Alexandre Vinokourov had to have stitches overnight for deep wounds to both knees and an elbow. Vinokourov believes his chain skipped, and he lost his balance.

The overnight Lanterne Rouge missed the start of Stage 6, and is out of the Tour. Geoffroy Lequatre was outside the time limit for Stage 5, but race officials voted to let the French Cofidis rider continue, since his time gap resulted from a crash and injuries, but Lequatre couldn't ride today.

It's a mostly flat 199.5 km/124 mile ride to Bourg-en-Bresse. We've got three intermediate sprints and two 4th Category climbs to contest.

Bradley Wiggins of Cofidis launched an attack after only 2 kilometers today, and had 7:40 on the field after 24 kilometers. Milram's Andrey Grivko briefly tried to bridge, but after gaining 40 seconds on the field, gave up and rejoined the pack.

Benjamin Noval, who went into the back window of a team car on the day's last descent yesterday, has already spent some time rolling alongside the race doctor today.

Wiggins' lead continues to grow. It's 12:25 with 44 kms/27 miles ridden.

Sprint 1:
1) Wiggins, Cofidis, +6pts/6 secs
2) Tom Boonen, QuickStep, +4pts/4 secs
3) Robbie Hunter, Barloworld, +2pts/2 secs

The pack let Wiggins get 17 minutes, and now are slowly reeling him back in.

Climb 1 - 4th Cat:
1) Wiggins, Cofidis, +3 pts
2) Sylvain Chavanel, Cofidis, +2 pts
3) Juan Manuel Garate, QuickStep, +1 pt

At the feed zone, Barloworld's Enrico Degano goes down, and soon after, he's the 7th rider out of this year's Tour.

With 80k to ride, the gap has come down inside of 5 minutes.

Andreas Klöden has come off the back to the team cars, and struggles to get back to the peloton with teammate Gregory Rast.

At the 2nd sprint of the day, Wiggins is still about 3:30 ahead, and Zabel and Boonen sprint it out for the four 2nd-place points, with predictable results.

Sprint 2:
1) Wiggins, Cofidis, +6pts/6 secs
2) Tom Boonen, QuickStep, +4pts/4 secs
3) Erik Zabel, Milram, +2pts/2 secs

That puts Boonen two points up on Zabel, with one more intermediate sprint and the day's finish yet to come. After the sprint, the peloton's pace eased up, and Wiggins stretched his gap back out over 5 minutes, but it's slowly coming back down.

Climb 2 - 4th Cat:
1) Wiggins, Cofidis, +3 pts
2) Juan Manuel Garate, QuickStep, +2 pts
3) Sylvain Chavanel, Cofidis, +1 pt

With 55 kms to ride, Wiggins has 4:49.

As the last intermediate sprint of the day neared, Quick Step again massed near the front, but with 500 meters to the line, two of Tom Boonen's teammates went off the front of the field, denying the available points to Erik Zabel or any other green jersey hopeful.

Sprint 3:
1) Wiggins, Cofidis, +6pts/6 secs
2) Steven De Jongh, Quick Step, +4pts/4 secs
3) Gert Steegmans, Quick Step, +2pts/2 secs

After 164 kilometers on the front, Brad Wiggins has 2:30 advantage in hand, and 33 kms/20.5 miles to race.

With around 25 kms/15 miles to ride, the peloton came within sight of Wiggins a little more than a minute ahead. And slowed down. They can pull Wiggins back at any time, but Wiggins has pushed it back out to 1:44 with 21 kms to ride.

At 15 kms/9.5 miles to ride, the peloton pulls within 1:00 of Brad Wiggins.

Finally, with 7 kms/4.5 miles to ride, Wiggins is swept up, after 190 kilometers riding alone.

Again, it's a very nervous run-in to the finish, as no single team can set a high enough pace to string out the field, and even in the last 2 kilometers, the field is a dozen riders wide. Finally, Quick Step and Milram come together and begin the leadout, but in the last kilometer, Credit Agricole's Julian Dean and Barloworld's Robbie Hunter both briefly lead the field, but then Torpedo Tom Boonen gets up to speed, and, with riders spread from curb to curb, Boonen seals the deal! It's Boonen's first stage win since 2005.

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Posted by Frank Steele on July 13, 2007 in 2007 Stage 6 | Permalink

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