Stage 6 Preview: The Tourmalet Awaits!

Stage 5 was insane - can the gladiators of the Tour de France produce more of the same in the monstrous Stage 6?

By Whit Yost |

Stage 6 – Tarbes to Cauterets-Cambasque (144.9km) – Thursday, July 6

After Stage 5 blew apart the 2023 Tour de France, Stage 6 could produce similar fireworks with a short, intense stage through the Pyrenees that takes the riders over one of the Tour’s most legendary climbs and ends with the race’s first summit finish.

The stage begins in Tarbes, which hosts the Tour for the fifteenth time. If Stage 5 is any indicator, there will be an intense race to join the breakaway with stage hunters, polka dot jersey hopefuls, and perhaps a few domestiques from the GC contenders’ teams all hoping to get up the road and gain as big of an advantage as possible. And they’ll need it with a heavy dose of Pyrenean summits crammed into the second two-thirds of the stage.

The climbing starts quickly, with the Category 3 Côte de Capvern-les-Bains, followed about 20km later by the intermediate sprint in Sarrancolin. The riders should cover these in the first hour, before settling in for the three ascents that define the stage: the Category 1 Col d’Aspin, the Hors Categorie Col du Tourmalet, and the Category 1 climb to the finish in Cauterets.

Stage 6 profile tour de France 2023Of these, the Tourmalet is the most challenging. Starting about 80km into the stage, the riders will climb it from the east, which means they face 17.1km of climbing with an average gradient of 7.3%. The second half of the ascent is the toughest, with several kilometres of pitches hovering between 9 and 10%. As a bit of added incentive, the Souvenir Jacques Goddet prize will be awarded to the first rider over the Tourmalet’s 2 115m summit, which sits 47km from the end of the stage.

A long descent takes the racers from the top of the Tourmalet back down to the valley floor, where they’ll have a few minutes to catch their breath, grab bottle, and scarf down a gel or two before the day’s final obstacle: the 16km Category 1 climb to Cauterets-Cambasque.

This is the only second time that a Tour stage has finished beyond the village of Cauterets, taking the riders another 10km up to the Plateau du Cambasque. This turns the traditional “uphill finish” in Cauterets into a true Category 1 climb. The climb’s average gradient is just 5.4%, but with pitches near the top approaching an 11% gradient, it’s going to do some damage.

Australia’s Jai Hindley (BORA-hansgrohe) enters the day in the yellow jersey after winning Stage 5. The 27-year-old and his team will immediately be put to the test, as Denmark’s Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) wants to put more time into Slovenia’s Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), who cracked on the Col du Marie Blanque at the end of Stage 5 and lost over a minute to his Danish rival. How well Hindley handles the attacks from Vingegaard and his team will go a long way toward determining whether or not he’s a true podium contender. (Hint: We think he is.) And as we saw last year, Pogačar won’t go down without a fight. If he feels he’s recovered from Stage 5, he’ll launch an assault of his own.

Riders to watch

After an intense day of racing on Stage 5, the Tour’s GC contenders might be happy to let another breakaway head up the road–albeit with fewer GC threats. Look for four teams to try and jam at least one but probably two riders in the move to maximise their chances of taking the stage: INEOS-Grenadiers, Lidl-Trek, Israel-PremierTech, and EF Education-EasyPost. These teams each have several talented climbers who are far enough down the Tour’s General Classification that they’ll be allowed to go hunt for a stage win.

When to Watch

We’ll start watching at about 15h30, as the riders hit the base of the Tourmalet. But it’s work week, and you might have other plans. In that case, tune-in around 16h30 to see the action on the final climb to the finish above Cauterets.

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