July 12 - Stage 6: Forges-les-Eaux - Alençon 199 km
A long day in the saddle today as the riders head west. Two category 4 climbs, one at Km 61.0 - Côte du Val d'Any : 2.2 km climb at 3.9 percent grade and another at Km 71.5 - Côte de Saint-Vigor: 2.6 km climb at 4.0 percent grade are the only difficulties, and there are three metas volantes today.
With the contest for the green jersey close and the prize on the verge of changing hands with Robbie McEwen well within striking distance, the sprinters' teams may be a bit more attentive to the breaks, and we can expect those sprints to be more hotly contested than they have been in the past week.
The Daily Peloton's live coverage begins at 6:30 am, PST!
6:32 am PST - As we join le Tour, there is a break up the road at 1:45 consisting of Wesemann (Telecom), Zaballa (Kelme), van Hyfte (CSC - Tiscali), Durand (Fdjeux.com), Magnian (Bonjour), and Apollonio (Tacconi Sport). The best place man in the break is Wesemann, who is right around 4 minutes down on the leaders.
6:47 am PST - Lotto is chasing, with some help from ONCE and Credit Agricole. The peloton is now at 1'20". Today is a fast day.
6:51 am PST - The latest timecheck shows the leaders at 1'25", and it looks as if Lotto will redouble their efforts. Robbie McEwen is now the virtual leader in the contest for the points competition, having taken some points at the first metas volantes earlier today.
6:56 am PST - Credit Agricole is on the front now as well, and the chase is in earnest. The break is down to 1'10". Sebastian Hinault of Credit Agricole has just had a very long wheel change and will have to chase hard to rejoin the group.
7:03 am PST - David Millar has been back in the caravan talking with his team car, but pedals back easily to rejoin the peloton. 26 miles to go, and 7 miles to the next metas volantes. Will the peloton bring back the break in time for the sprint? The race caravan has been pulled out of the gap, with only the neutral service car left behind. The gap is under a minute.
7:07 am PST - The gap steady at 57". Credit Agricole at the head of the pack.
7:11 am PST - Apollonio takes the sprint at the metas volantes, and the break is down to 47". McEwen still sitting pretty on top of the points competition.
7:17 am PST - Lotto, Mapei and Credit Agricole are chasing. Oscar Friere riding near the front, but Lotto is dominating the front of the pack with a lot of confidence in McEwen.
7:25 am PST - There's been another crash at the back of the peloton, involving over 20 riders. Alexander Schefer is down, and being loaded onto a stretcher. It looks like his race is over. Also caught out by the crash, Jonathan Vaughters and David Millar. Millar has rejoined the back of the pack.
Lotto continues to drive it at the front, and the strain is starting to show. The lead is down to 38".
7:31 am PST - Oscar Friere is attentive. Ekimov and Hincapie are right up on the front as well, and Lotto continues to work it at the front, with the break steady at 38", Mapei is up there, too. Robbie McEwen is doing a lot of talking to the riders around him today. He looks strong and confident.
Weseman is not working the break terribly hard at this point. He won't mind getting caught to give Zabel a chance to redeem his lack of stage victories so far this year at the tour.
7:37 am PST - The break is down to 20" as it starts to rain. The beak is starting to look like they are calling it a day on their move. Credit Agricole and Lotto are leading, and have the effort written all over their faces. Telecom has had a sheltered day in the peloton.
The break has surrendered, but Jacky Durand has attacked and is now going it alone. He has a gap of 10" with 12 km to go!
7:45 am PST - Jacky Durand is caught with 9 km to go. The peloton is all together and it looks like the sprinters will have their day.
7:48 am PST - Telecom's mountain men are on the front: Julich, Livingston... they are saving the speedsters for the sprint. It's going to be a hotly contested finish! The group is all together and driving hard.
7:52 am PST - Oscar Friere is still right there and looking sharp. Bradley McGee is near the front as well. Andrea Tafi looks tough! He's riding hard for his leader. Rolf Aldag has moved to the front for Eric Zabel and as they roll around traffic islands, everyone's jockeying for position. Mapei is liftig the pace ont he front, and Armstrong and USPS are keeping near the front and staying out of trouble.
7:52 am PST - Under the 2 km mark and it looks like the Aussies are swarming the front, O'Grady, Mc Ewen and Baden Cooke.
Ludo Dierckxsens is right on the front, what an ironman! Hondo is leading Fagnini and Zabel....
And ZABEL WINS! He collapses into the arms of his soigneur!
What a finish!
It was a close one, but Zabel will stay in green. Robbie McEwen looks like he was cursing over the line in frustration. McEwen settles for third. Oscar Friere was second.
It's Zabel's 12th victory in the Tour de France. He is smiling from ear to ear on the podium.
Top 20 Stage Results
1 ZABEL Erik GER TEL 4h 23' 07"
2 FREIRE Oscar ESP MAP
3 MC EWEN RobbieAUS LOT
4 SVORADA JanSLO LAM
5 IVANOV SergueiRUS FAS
6 COOKE BadenAUS FDJ
7 HUSHOVD ThorNOR C.A
8 BROCHARD LaurentFRA DEL
9 PIZIKS ArvisLTU CST
10 HAUPTMAN AndrejSLO TAC
11 BOSSONI PaoloITA TAC
12 RADAELLI MauroITA TAC
13 SIMON FrançoisFRA BJR
14 CASAGRANDA StefanoITA ALS
15 GUTIERREZ José Enrique ESP KEL
16 O'GRADY StuartAUS C.A
17 PINEAU JérômeFRA BJR
18 MATTAN NicoBEL COF
19 RENIER FranckFRA BJR
20 FAGNINI Gian Matteo
There is no change to the top ten in the GC from yesterday, and that holds steady at:
1 Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano SPA ONCE-Eroski 19.05.56
2 Joseba Beloki SPA ONCE-Eroski 0.04
3 Lance Armstrong USA USPS 0.07
4 Jörg Jaksche GER ONCE-Eroski 0.12
5 Abraham Olano SPA ONCE-Eroski 0.22
6 Roberto Heras Hernandez SPA USPS 0.25
7 Isidro Nozal SPA ONCE-Eroski 0.27
8 José Azevedo POR ONCE-Eroski 0.28
9 George Hincapie USA USPS
10 Marcos A.Serrano SPA ONCE-Eroski 0.30
Check back with us later at the Daily Peloton for stage analysis and updates throughout the day!