Thursday, 6 July 2017

Kittel Powers to Stage 6 Victory

Already winner of the first sprint of this Tour de France in Liege, Marcel Kittel repeated the feat in stage 6 to make it two in Troyes. Yet it was a very different scenario this time as the German, perfectly led-out by his team, surged in the last 150 metres to outpower green jersey holder Arnaud Demare of France (FDJ) and fellow-German Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), who were battling it out near the fences and had to settle for podium places. Alexander Krirstoff (Katusha) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) finished at the foot of the podium at the end of this long hot 216-km ride from Vesoul. 

The day's break took shape from the gun when Perrig Quemeneur (Direct Energie) attacked, followed by Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE) and Frederik Backaert (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), already in the leading group on the road to Longwy. The gap quickly increased and reached four minutes after 30 km and never went over 4:15. Teams Quick Step, Lotto-Soudal and FDJ made sure that the gap never went over three minutes and kept the break under control. They even eased up a little after the feed zone in Chaumont (Km 106) for fear of bridging the gap too early. 

Quemeneur snatched one point in the 4th category cote de Langres (km 69) while Backaert sprinted for the day's bonus prize in Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises, home of general De Gaulle. Arnaud Demare outsprinted the peloton to strengthen his green jersey ahead of Michael Matthews (Sunweb) and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal). On the second climb of the day, Côte de la colline Sainte-Germaine (4th cat, km 154), Quemeneur grabbed another point. France's Laurent Pichon (Fortuneo) briefly attempted to join the leading trio but gave up after 15 km. 

In the last 30 km, the tempo raised and the leading trio maintained 1:30 over the main pack. But it was a lost cause and with 13 km left, as Julien Vermote (Quick Step), Tiago Machado (Katusha) and Lars Bak (Lotto-Soudal) led the chase, the gap quickly diminished. Influential in the breakaway group, Vegard Stake Laengen was awarded the prize as the most aggressive rider of the day. The sprint was far less eventful than the previous one in Vittel even if Demare and Greipel were involved in a fierce battle near the fences. But while they were losing their momentum, Kittel produce his last gasp effort to earn his 11th stage victory on the Tour de France and challenge Demare in the race for the green jersey.


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