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92nd Tour de France Stage 6 Live Report
 
By Locutus
Date: 7/7/2005
92nd Tour de France Stage 6 Live Report
 

Welcome to live coverage of Stage 6 of the Tour de France. Today the riders face a day that is long (199km) but not necessarily flat on the roads between Troyes and Nancy. There are four Cat 4 climbs on the course today, including one at 185.5km, and the bumps along the latter half of the course could favor classics-style riders instead of the sprinters and their leadouts.

Stage 6: Troyes-Nancy, 199 km

Currently, there is a five-man break that got away early in the stage: Karsten Kroon (Rabobank), Stephane Auge (AG2r-Prevoyance), Jan Kirsipuu (Credit Agricole), Mauro Gerosa (Liquigas-Bianchi), and Christophe Mengin (FDJeux.com). The gap was as high as 8' 30", with Discovery not giving a rat's behind about chasing.

This forced Quick Step-Innergetic and Davitamon-Lotto to come to the front relatively early and start chasing in the peloton. The gap with 81km left is around 6' 30".

There were several attempted breakaways before this one stuck. Most significantly, "Gorgeous" George Hincapie (Discovery), who is currently 2nd on GC at 55" behind his leader Armstrong, was on the attack with a group of four other men. Johan Bruyneel said a couple of days ago that Hincapie has earned the right to attack and ride for the Yellow Jersey. This would also take the pressure off of the rest of the Discovery team for the stage, as other teams would have to lead the chase in the peloton. Alas, George's attack caused a big reaction in the pack and he was chased down.

On his website yesterday, Bradley McGee tabbed Mengin as their "secret weapon" on today's stage: he's a strong rider who is actually from this region, riding on his home roads. Sure enough, Mengin has been a motor in this break. We'll see if it stays away. Of course, Kirsipuu is an aging sprinter who would still smoke everybody in this group if they stayed away and it came down to a sprint finish.

Kirsipuu has won several Tour stages over the years, including a victory in the final sprint for Stage 1 in last year's Tour. The four other men in the break will not want to bring Kirsipuu to the finish.

The final Cat 4 climb of the day crests just 13.5km from the finish, so anybody with legs left will attack there, most likely.

At 83.5km, the break went over the first climb of the day with the following result: 1) Auge, 2) Mengin, 3) Kroon. Of course Mengin has worn the Polka Dot Jersey in an early Tour stage before. Kroon wore the climbing jersey of the Giro early in the race a few years back. These are some experienced opportunists in this break.

Mengin actually lives in Nancy, the site of today's finish, so he will be super-motivated.

The 2nd climb of the day came at 104km, and here was the result: 1) Kroon, 2) Auge, 3) Gerosa. This put Auge within 1 point of Rabobank's Erik Dekker in the race for the Polka Dot Jersey. Dekker now leads 6 pts to 5 pts. Kroon, riding in defense of his mate's jersey, is now up to 4 pts. So it looks like an Auge vs. Kroon battle for the mountain jersey today.

1525 CEST - 68 km left. The lead has come down to 5' 30" under the pressure of Quick Step and Davitamon. The rain has been heavy and the roads are very wet, but this hasn't dulled the ardor of the racing today.

Claudio Corioni (Fassa Bortolo) has abandoned the race. He's the 2nd man to abandon so far. The first man yesterday was Zaballa of Saunier Duval-Prodir, who pulled out because of severe pain in his knee (not illness like we reported yesterday).

Well, the rain is back and it looks like it will be sticking around for the next few days. Bummer for lots of the riders, but possibly good news for Armstrong, who excels in wet conditions.

The five men on the front have a little double-paceline going. Back in the pack, Armstrong has his Yellow Jersey covered by a black rain jacket with a big Nike swoosh on it. Probably made of material originally developed by NASA to survive the harsh climate of Venus or something like that.

The leaders are on the climb... Mengin has a go, but now Auge counters and Kroon is on his wheel. Kroon wins it, Auge is 2nd. This means that they are tied! Both have 7 pts each. This will now come down to the final climb.

1542 CEST - 57 km left. The five leaders are now coming up on the 2nd bonus sprint in a couple of kilometers. Not sure they'll care about that.

The lead is now down to 4' 20", with the Quick Step-Innergetic and Davitamon-Lotto boys still suffering along at the front of the peloton leading the chase. The five leaders don't contest the sprint, and just keep riding through it together.

The peloton strings out in a roundabout. Miserable racing today, with a high pace and lots of rain.

Mengin is trying to undo the bad performance of FDJeux.com so far. Yesterday, they finally got the sprint perfectly. On his website, McGee said that the race bible showed that the sharp right hand bend in the final kilometer was only about 300-400 meters from the finish.

So McGee went to the point and flew through that final corner with Cooke and Eisel on his wheel. They had won the battle for the corner! Then they looked up after coming through the corner, and... it was 600 meters of false flat uphill. So when their leadout fired, both Cooke and Eisel started their sprint about 200 meters too soon. Of course, both faded and were overtaken by men like Boonen, McEwen, and Hushovd. If the race bible had been accurate, they'd have nailed it and probably gotten a win.

But that's bike racing. Today, they've got Mengin off the front on his home roads in good position... if he can stay away, they have a good chance. The gap is now 3' 59" with 46 km left. The chase is starting to get a bit frantic... Davitamon-Lotto has now committed four riders to the chase at the front, clearly not satisfied with how quickly the time gaps are closing to the breakaway.

The terrain is bumpy on the run-in to Nancy... this is also cause for concern amongst the big sprinters' teams.

Oh man, Basso is off the back of the peloton talking to his team car. Now he has some teammates dropping back. He must have had a mechanical.

1556 CEST - Basso now has a mechanic hanging out of the team car working on his rear gears and brakes.

Basso's teammates are trying to pace him back to the peloton. Basso doesn't look panicked. On the side of the road, some strange folks cycle some Dr. Seuss-looking contraption and shout with a fervor that may have been fueled by a liquid source of energy. Ahem.

Lance is taking off his rain jacket while on the fly... he's revealing his Yellow Jersey. That looked a bit like a Clark Kent into Superman kind of thing, actually.

Armstrong is flanked by Christophe "Bug Taster" Moreau (Credit Agricole), who will be looking forward to the mountains. Last year, Moreau chased mountain points and did quite well. He is a favorite to take the Polka Dot Jersey this year. But he won't be on the attack until the real mountains hit at the end of the week.

Basso is now safely back in the peloton. Thankfully. At the front of the race, Ullrich rides along with his bottle hanging out of his mouth, clenched in his teeth, both hands on the handlebars. Bit comical, that... I won't make any oral fixation or baby bottle jokes here, too easy. He rode with that thing in his mouth for quite a while, though.

1609 CEST - Ullrich commented after the team time trial that he was feeling very strong. He was definitely the big motor in the great TTT performance of the T-Mobile squad, who came in a solid 3rd. He said that he didn't want to speculate how good he would have done if he'd had those good legs for the opening individual time trial.

Gerosa is now letting a gap open up at the back of the break... could he be bonking? No, now he's back on and taking his turn. The road is very wet, and there is a lot of road furniture. This could cause big problems for the peloton. 30 km left.

1614 CEST - The gap is down to 2' 27". Auge was first through the final sprint point, but they weren't really fighting for that one. The real fight will come on the final climb.

Kroon is going for the mountains points, but he has also won a stage of the Tour. That was back in 2002. He'll be looking to make it number 2 for the stage wins today. That final climb will not only see the battle over the Polka Dot Jersey, but also will be the last chance for the men in the break to shed the sprinter Kirsipuu. Of course, they'll also have to stay clear of the hard-charging peloton, which seems less and less likely. With all this rain and all these corners and hills coming up, though, you never know.

Well, Discovery did some work early on, but they weren't really pulling that hard at the front of the peloton. They'll likely keep the Yellow Jersey for another day without a lot of work. That's going to make Lance happy.

1621 CEST - 25 km left. The gap is 2' 06", and the break seems to be really kind of just soft-pedaling almost. They don't look to be driving it like they once were. Well, Brodrogi and Joly of Credit Agricole are both off the back of the peloton. Wonder why. Bad legs? Mechanical problem? Who knows...

Auge now attacks, not liking the slackening of the pace. He gets caught, and the five men have come back into the paceline and are working again.

The gap is falling fast: it's now only 1' 47". The peloton's packed together very tightly.

The bunch looks more dutiful, as Davitamon-Lotto come to the front, with the tallest man in the race, Johan van Summeren, driving things.

1628 CEST - With 20km to go, the gap is down to 1'31". On a descent made slick by the downpours, Kirsipuu gets a small gap to his companions, who are riding more tentatively. Hushovd had a flat, but got a good change. The peloton is all strung out now. The pressure is on.

With the escapees 18km from the finish in Nancy, the gap is holding (briefly, I suspect) at 1'32". The break will be hitting the climb soon. This will really make or break the fate of this group. Lots of punctures now... Chavanel of Cofidis is the latest victim of a flat.

The break is on the final climb. Exactly the time you don't want to be puncturing: when the pack is motoring and there's a climb up ahead. It's 3.2 km at 5.2%, so this is a nasty little bugger, this climb. This will monkey with the peloton's chase for sure.

It starts narrow, and the pack is really strung out. Looks like Sinkewitz on the front for Quick Step, with Armstrong in his yellow jersey about eighth man. Auge is setting the pace with Kroon right on his wheel. This is for the 'dots, baby.

They've both blown! Augé and Kroon are out the back. So now Kirsipuu, Mengin, and Gerosa drop the two men marking each other! Never thought I'd see the day when Jaan Kirsipuu drops someone on a climb...

So now Heras will win the final sprint, right? Mengin drops Kirsipuu - it was inevitable really. Mengin is driving home an attack. He's on his home roads, and now he's solo. Voeckler has been dropped in the peloton! Oh sorry day!

Voeckler couldn't hang on the climb. Lots of men are blowing out of the pack on this final climb!

Mengin, one of the stalwarts in the French peloton, turns 37 in September . He has worn polka dots before, and also won a stage in the 1997 Tour, finishing in Fribourg. Mengin is now looking good for the win, I must say. It will be close. This hill is a real bum-biter, and the peloton has been shredded a bit. Meanwhile, it's curtains for Augé and Kroon as the peloton engulfs them.

1638 CEST - Now Gerosa leads Kirsipuu, in his splendorous Estonian champion's jersey, over the top of the climb. CSC and Discovery have now come to the front of the peloton. The remnants of the escape face a fast descent; Mengin could well hold out.

Whoa man, there are lots of men who have blown out the back of the peloton. There is a group of about 40 men bunched behind the CSC train, a long line of men clinging for dear life, and then little groups strung out here and there behind the pack.

10 km left. Now Christophe Mengin is the only survivor of the break as Kirsipuu and Gerosa succumb to the bunch's chasing efforts.

There are rollers from here on in... Mengin has about 30". 9.6km to go, and the gap is 28 seconds. Mengin is going hell for leather! He started it, and now he's trying to finish off this break. Armstrong is 3rd wheel in the peloton, keeping himself near the front with the Big Hink, George Hincapie, right nearby. On the wheel of the Boss is Alexandre Vinokourov in all-Kazakh attire.

An attack from the peloton. It's Cioni (Liquigas-Bianchi). He's got a smart gap. Born in Reading, the Italian is the closest we Brits have to a Tour rider this year!

1644 CEST - 7 km left. Mengin is cat-assed on a downhill. Cioni is closing fast on him. The sprinters look to be in real trouble today. Cioni is only about 8" behind Mengin... but he almost lost it in a tight left-hander on these rain-slicked roads.

The peloton rounds that treacherous corner, about the same distance behind Cioni as the Italian is to Mengin. Okay, now Boonen is still there near the front. But the sprinters' teams aren't organized.

5 km left. Mengin still alone off the front, but the pack is closing down fast. Mengin still has 23 seconds to the peloton, but Cioni is just five down on him! Cioni is now being pulled back by the peloton... it's looking bad for Mengin too. The Liquigas man is caught - no more than 20 seconds for Mengin now. Mengin certainly deserves the win, but deserves got nothing to do with it (to quote Clint Eastwood).

16 seconds with 3.7km to go... it's going to be tight. The peloton has shrunk to about 50 men. There is some regrouping, but this is a very chaotic finish. Van Summeren is back driving the peloton, so his boy McEwen must be in that pack. Boonen is definitely there. 3km to go - 13 seconds; lucky for some...

There are some tight, sketchy corners in this rain on the run-in to the finish. This is good for Mengin. Mengin is really hurting now; the crowd must be lifting him with such vocal support. Vino has attacked!

There are some tight, sketchy corners in this rain on the run-in to the finish. This is good for Mengin. Mengin is really hurting now; the crowd must be lifting him with such vocal support. Vino has attacked!

Only 2km to go now and the deficit is hovering at 10 seconds! Vinokourov jumped from the pack, and he's caused a big reaction behind. Vino has the gap and is closing on Mengin!

Now a Discovery rider is sitting on Vino. Is it Hincapie? Mengin crashes! A major pileup!

Armstrong down? Ahead, a Fassa rider leads Vinokourov! A hard right-hander caused some chaos. The Fassa rider is solo, being chased by Vino. Wow, the Fassa rider wins! Who is it?

Bernucci of Fassa wins it! What a bolt from the blue! Vinokourov second. What chaos! Mengin is down clutching his head; a plucky ride ends in agony. A Gerolsteiner man may have won the sprint for third on the left hand side of the road; it was too hard to tell though.

McEwen and Boonen both crashed in that bad corner. They are now rolling in side-by-side, chatting with each other about what just happened. Boonen licks his wounds - literally.

They are both making grumpy but philosophical faces. They knew today would be tough for them to win. Well, due to the 3km rule, nobody should lose any time though we wonder who has been badly injured by that fall. However, Vino did have a small gap when the crash happened, so he may be granted a few seconds on GC ahead of men like Armstrong.

Förster 3rd today. Look at that replay! In the rain, Mengin slid out on the slick paint of the zebra crossing... and several behind him leading the peloton did exactly the same!

So Lorenzo Bernucci pulled a miracle out of the bag today for a big stage win. What a horrible finish for Mengin after such a long, brave ride today. Bernucci profited from Vinokourov's misjudgement - the Kazakh almost ploughed into Mengin and had to brake heavily to avoid him. In these conditions, that final corner was lethal.

It was Bernucci who had bridged up to Vino, not a Discovery rider. When Vino braked, Bernucci flew the coop.

Vinokourov is up to second overall now. The provisional General Classification:

1 Armstrong
2 Vinokourov at 53"
3 Julich at 55"
4 Hincapie s.t
5 Voigt 1'04"

We'll see if the judges change anything later on today with those times. They may not.

Great opportunism by Vinokourov with a well-placed attack. His teammate Ullrich got through the crash with no problems, by the way.

Davis, O'Grady, Cooke, Da Cruz, they all went down. And Cancellara, who went down, immediately jumped up and started shouting into his shirt microphone, telling his teammate about what had happened behind him. Cancellara saw the pileup and knew his teammate could win if he drove it hard.

Vinokourov will get a 12" bonus for 2nd on the stage, regardless of the time splits awarded for the stage. Great riding by him. Bernucci seemed to be kissing his wedding ring as he crossed the line.

Brief Stage Results:

1 Lorenzo Bernucci (Fassa Bortolo) 4 12' 52"
2 Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile Team) at 0'03"
3 Robert Forster (Gerolsteiner) 0'07"
4 Angelo Furlan (Domina Vacanze)
5 Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole)
6 Kim Kirchen (Fassa Bortolo)
7 Gianluca Bortolami (Lampre-Caffita)
8 Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
9 Gerrit Glomser (Lampre-Caffita)
10 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Team CSC) all same time

Hushovd has made some good gains in the points competition, as has Furlan.

Ullrich and Armstrong look to have avoided that big pileup... it was about the first twenty men in the peloton who went down, all having their wheels just slide out from under them as they attempted that final hard right-hander into the finishing straight. Some of them may be a bit beat up from being plowed into by the riders sliding into them from behind.

Still, I suppose it's better to slide than to crash suddenly, straight down - it reduces the possibility of severe injuries. Road rash is always "better" than broken body parts. The worst part of that crash was likely the people banging into each other.

Lance is smiling in his interview. He says the finish was hairy with those turns, the rain, and the painted crosswalks that make things slippery. He said that getting stuck behind a crash like that was no big deal with the 3km rule. He says that a relatively insignificant climb saw a lot of guys getting dropped, which shows how tired some of the riders are and how hard the racing has been this week.

Bernucci now comes up to get his trophy, kiss the girls, and celebrate his first ever professional victory. This is a career-maker for this rider!

Well well, what an exciting final 20 km that was. The hero of the day crashes in the final corner, a surprise winner jumps from the chasing pack to take a great win, the sprinters pile into each other in the final corner, Vinokourov sneaks some important seconds on Armstrong, and the rest of the GC men avoid the crash but lose time to Vino. Whew!

Lance is still in the Yellow Jersey. There are some crazy Americans with body paint (red, white, and blue, of course) waving flags and showing lots of enthusiasm as Armstrong dons the jersey on the podium, kisses the girls, and shakes hands with Hinault.

Boonen is still in the Green Jersey, though his margin to Hushovd has taken a hit today with that crash. Hushovd made it through and scored some big points.   Popovych takes the White Jersey on the podium. It will be interesting to see if he can defend that from Karpets all the way to Paris.

McEwen says he was going slow into the corner, but couldn't avoid the pile of bikes. He says that everybody knows the finishes in cities on days like this are tricky, but guys were trying too hard to beat each other into the corner and brought everybody down. He says he has no injuries, but that it was a waste of a day.

Tomorrow looks like a stage for the sprinters, much flatter than today. After a couple of climbs early, it's then a flat roll into Germany. Saturday, it's a strange stage with four Cat 3 climbs in the first 48 kms, then flat until a Cat 2 climb and descent at the end. Sunday is the first stage with some real climbs, with four Cat 3s, a Cat 2, and a Cat 1. But with the long descent to the finish, that won't be a very big stage for the GC. No, the whip comes down next Tuesday, when the riders face two Cat 1 climbs including the finishing climb up to Courchevel. Stayed tuned, as we will be bringing you all of these stages live.

Thanks for joining us today, and watch the site for our daily Tour features!


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