Aix-en-Provence to Montpellier (176.5km)
Thursday, July 4 7:00 A.M. EDT – 11:10 A.M. EDT
Live Coverage sponsored by Clif Bar
Stage 6 is tailor-made for the sprinters. However, a strong crosswind could very well blow the race a part. The peloton is moving west from Aix-En-Provence to Montpellier and will be battling the wind for most of the stage.
It’s difficult already to say how big of an impact the wind will have, but it’s safe to say that all the GC riders need to stay in front to avoid being dropped. This will make for a fast pace and in high temperatures, this will be a very hard day in the saddle.
Mark Cavendish and Omega Pharma-Quick Step rode stage 5 to perfection on Wednesday and it’s hard to not pick Cavendish as the big favorite for this stage. Cavendish is not only the fastest sprinter in the world, but he also has the best team for the crosswind. With Gert Steegmans, Sylvain Chavanel, Niki Terpstra, and Michal Kwiatkowski, Omega Pharma has half of its classics team in the race. Add to that Tony Martin, Peter Velits, and Matteo Trentin and it doesn’t get any better.
Still, the run-in to Montpellier probably suits the big power sprinters more than Cavendish. Lotto-Belisol and Argos-Shimano have two of the best leadout trains in the world and both André Greipel and Marcel Kittel will be eager to take revenge. Kittel crashed on the top of the final climb in stage 5 while Greipel lost Greg Henderson’s wheel in the final. Both are disappointed and they will be focused on not missing out again.
Despite a big pileup in the final, Orica-GreenEdge’s Daryl Impey finished two places ahead of teammate Simon Gerrans on stage 5. That means Impey now just has to finish seven places ahead of Gerrans in stage 6 to be the first South African rider in the yellow jersey. —MIKKEL CONDÉ
Madness in Montpellier
This is a flat stage that’s not too long (176.5km), and in theory should be the realm of the sprinters. The landscape will be beautiful, passing through the Baux-de-Provence. That said, the stage isn’t simply one of transition. The heat, which can be extreme, could play a role, especially after 229km the day before. And there’s always the chance that the wind could kick up. On an almost identical course, the wind almost played a very nasty trick on Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) in 2009. However, more than likely, the candidates for the green jersey will feast on this stage.