Tour de France Stage 6 Preview: A Last Chance for Sprinters Until Next Week
Stage 6 – Tours to Châteauroux – 160.6km – Thursday, July 1
Time trials change races in more ways than is obvious. They often settle down nervous fields as the general classification starts to shake out, which it certainly did in Stage 5. But for riders who aren’t gunning for the TT stage win or for a top overall finish in Paris, they’re also fairly easy days, where the main objective is simply to make the time cut.
That means we could see some motivated and relatively fresh attackers on this mid-distance transitional stage that takes the race eastward across France toward this weekend’s rendezvous with the Alps. The course is simple and straightforward: there’s just one Category 4 climb, so it doesn’t look like a day for the KOM competition. And don’t expect a big move with lots of riders; that will likely wait until Friday’s unusually long stage. But do expect the inevitable early breakaway.
On paper, Stage 6 is a clear sprint finish. In 2019, a group of economists analysed data from the last six Tours and found that, on flat stages, breakaways have survived to the line just two percent of the time, and breaks with five or fewer riders were almost identically low-probability affairs. But Tuesday’s close-but-not-quite attempt by Brent van Moer (Lotto-Soudal) may give attackers some hope, and animate the tug-of-war between the break and the sprint teams. Is it team-mate Thomas de Gendt’s turn?
The forecast calls for cloudy conditions with light winds from the North and a chance of rain, but no severe weather is expected. The finish is fairly straightforward: flat and with only a few turns in the final 5km. There is one potentially tricky bit at 1.7km to go where the field will have to navigate a median on both sides and then a right-hand turn at speed. But that’s nothing compared to what they’ve seen course-wise so far in the race, and likely won’t cause any major issues.
Riders to Watch
Without KOM points in the mix, we’d expect to see a smallish break, a mix of riders from wildcard teams and teams without a sprinter. Now that Caleb Ewan is out, Lotto may be active again, as will small teams like B&B Hotels and TotalEnergies. Many top breakaway specialists, like Lotto’s Thomas de Gendt and DSM’s Soren Kragh Andersen, may be waiting for Friday’s stage, but their teammates could potentially populate Thursday’s move.
How To Watch
With a longish transfer from Wednesday’s finish to the start in Tours, it’s a slightly late start and finish planned for the stage compared to most days; riders don’t even get rolling until 2 p.m. Without much in the way of natural features on course to create the action, the most likely scenario is the early breakaway sets its gap and holds it fairly steady until late in the race. The main dynamic will be the chase in the last 30 or so kilometres.