Avenue des Sources, Porte de Gisors, Forges-lesl-Euax
Flying Start: 12:29 p.m., D.921, intersection D.921 and La Ruche.
Course: The roads of Normandy are conducive to long breakaways,
and this near-200km stage 6 from Forges-les-Eaux to Alençon should
see plenty of aggressive riding. The opening is again twisty on back roads
before the course crosses the Seine River at Courcelles, after 55km. If
a breakaway hasn’t formed by here then there should be one after two steep
Cat. 4 climbs in the next 15km. The second half of the stage is on flatter,
straighter roads, while there’s a tight run-in to the downtown finish on
the Rue de Bretagne.
History: There have been three stage finishes in Alençon,
a bike-crazy town of 35,000 people: a team trial in 1995, a time trial
in 1991 and a road race in 1984. The road stage was taken in a field sprint
by Frank Hoste from his fellow Belgian Eddy Planckaert.
Favorites: With the race now ending its opening week, there will
already be some depleted teams and tired legs. This could give the attackers
the opening they’re looking for, unless the usual southwest wind is blowing.
A lot of French riders will be trying to win this stage, and the next two
in Normandy and Brittany, as this is where most of them come from. Look
for names like Jacky Durand, Sylvain Chavanel, Christophe Agnolutto and
Florent Brard to make the day’s podium.