July 07, 2011
Boasson Hagen powers to Stage 6 win
Edvald Boasson Hagen won Stage 6 of the Tour on Thursday, holding off yellow jersey Thor Hushovd and Stage 1 winner Philippe Gilbert in the closing meters to take his first Tour stage and the first for his Team Sky.
The day's finish profile discouraged Cavendish, Farrar, and their ilk, favoring the torquier sprinters. With 1k to ride, Garmin-Cervelo's David Millar led the way, with Gilbert, Evans, and Hushovd close behind, and HTC trying to set up a leadout on the right of the pack, with Matthew Goss in its sweet spot. Astana's Alexandre Vinokourov tried to escape, but was countered by Rabobank's Bauke Mollema. With a few hundred meters to ride, Boasson Hagen launched off the wheel of teammate Geraint Thomas, outkicking Hushovd and Gilbert, stacked up behind him. At the line, in fact, it was Matthew Goss, closing fast, who would take 2nd on the stage, with Hushovd third.
Radio Shack's Levi Leipheimer suffered the only significant change in overall placing by a GC hopeful, limping in 1:05 back after falling on wet pavement late in the stage.
The break of the day at least factored in the jersey competitions, with Johnny Hoogerland of Vacansoleil taking 3 King of the Mountain points to take over the jersey through Saturday, at least. Also in the break were Leonardo Duque, Anthony Roux, Lieuwe Westra, and Adriano Malori. The break surrendered bit by bit, with Malori holding out to about the 15k mark, and earning the most aggressive award for the day.
HTC's Mark Cavendish came out to play at the intermediate sprint behind the breakaway, easily taking 6th ahead of José Rojas, who was looking to get back into the green jersey after a nullification of points in Stage 5.
The selection at the finish demonstrates why Philippe Gilbert may be entertaining thoughts of competing for the overall green jersey:
Green Jersey Competition (after 6 stages):
1) Philippe Gilbert, Omega Pharma-Lotto, 144 pts
2) Jose Rojas, Movistar, 143 pts
3) Thor Hushovd, Garmin-Cervelo, 112 pts
4) Cadel Evans, BMC, 98 pts
5) Mark Cavendish, HTC-Highroad, 94 pts
6) Tyler Farrar, Garmin-Cervelo, 76 pts
7) Romain Feillu, Vacansoleil-DCM, 73 pts
8) Edvald Boasson Hagen, Sky, 51 pts
9) Sébastien Hinault, AG2R La Mondiale, 48 pts
10) André Greipel, Omega Pharma-Lotto, 48 pts
Cavendish complained after this year's course was unveiled that organizers included stages like today's to limit his opportunities for victory. That may be, but I would rather see a battle like today's than the HTC train catapulting Cavendish to a 5-bike-length victory, an all-too-common sight the last few Tours.
Tomorrow, look for the HTC train to catapult Cavendish to victory, as Stage 7 is the flattest of the Tour.
Stage 6 Preview: 226.5km Dinan to Lisieux
Today's the Tour's longest stage, with riders making their way into Normandy. Prevailing winds are expected to be from the west, making today's stage a fast one.
We've got three categorized climbs on the day, two 3rd Category at 99.5km/62 miles and 156.5km/97 miles and a 4th Category at 197km/132 miles ridden. With a maximum of 5 pts on offer over the 3 climbs, it's likely a rider in a long breakaway might take over the polka-dot jersey from Cadel Evans, currently leading the competition with 2 pts.
The intermediate sprint is in Vassy at 131 kms/82 miles ridden. Philippe Gilbert leads the category after José Rojas had his points from yesterday's intermediate sprint nullified.
With Gilbert showing interest in the green jersey competition, today is another day where he might be able to gain points on Cavendish, with the finish profile (below) featuring a healthy climb from 3k down to 1k to the line that might take a bite out of the pure sprinters' legs, tilting things to Gilbert or Hushovd. We might also see a gap in the field at the finish, so the GC hopefuls will have to be attentive to these last few kilometers.