LILLE, France (VN) — The Tour de France peloton faces its longest stage Thursday in the 219.9km sixth stage from Binche to Longwy.
There will be some weary legs and banged up bodies in the peloton following Wednesday’s cobblestone clash.
The lumpy terrain dipping across the southern Ardennes could produce the Tour’s first major breakaway, not counting the stand-alone cobbles stage Wednesday.
Yet the uphill finale — 1.6km at 5.8 percent — could see the puncheurs riding hard to control the breaks to set up a possible stage win, with the GC riders under pressure not to get gapped.
With the stage dipping into Belgium, a large turnout among the rabid Belgian fans is a guarantee.
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A ‘mini’ Liège?
Though it’s not quite a full-on imitation of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the stage does evoke some of the best of the spring classic.
Though there are only three rated climbs, there’s plenty of unrated humps along the way will mean a tough day in the saddle.
After coming off Wednesday’s cobblestone challenge, the Tour’s longest stage will come at a time when the peloton could be ripe for a major breakaway.
Breaks have been sticking a lot more this season, so many teams will be looking to fight into the break for a chance to drive it to the line.
The stage features the first two third-category climbs of the 2022 Tour. The stage is undulating across the lumpy terrain, with two rated climbs in the closing 20km that will provide a trampoline for late-stage attacks.
A steep finishing ramp will dictate the dynamic, with explosive riders like Adam Yates or Neilson Powless, who moved up to second overall, means that teams could be trying to keep breaks on a short leash to have a chance to win.
There could be some GC fireworks as well: anyone struggling with the distance, injuries, or illness could have a hard time following the wheel.
Gaps at the line will be the real danger, with GC teams sure to keep the pace to protect their captains and perhaps try to drive a wedge between the bunch.
Sagan won there in 2017
The race start town of Binche is hosting its second Tour stage, returning for the first time since 2019. That year, Julian Alaphilippe won the stage into Épernay and the maillot jaune following his dramatic late-stage breakaway.
Binche is also the headquarters of Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert, so the Belgian team will be keen to please its local backers.
The finish in Longwy is hosting the Tour for the seventh time. The last time was in 2017, when Peter Sagan won that year’s third stage of the Tour. The next day, Sagan was disqualified in the infamous conflict with Mark Cavendish in the stage to Vittel.
Weather forecast: Light change of showers early
Cool temperatures will prevail, with highs in the low 70s F near the finish. There’s a 50-percent chance of light showers midday but it’s not expected to rain during the finish. Wind won’t be a major factor, with a northerly light wind of 5kph.
What’s next: Super Planche des Belles Filles
The 2022 Tour shifts gears Friday and moves into its first major climbing stage with the 176.3km seventh stage from Tomblaine to La Super Planche des Belles Filles.
After a week of mixed terrain, the Tour sees its first summit finale with the first category summit at La Super Planche des Belles Filles tucked into the French Vosges.
A stage finish for the second time at the summit at 1,140m — Pogačar’s famous time trial victory came in 2020 lower on the mountain at 1,045m — the Tour returns for the first time since Dylan Teuns won in 2019. Giulio Ciccone grabbed the yellow jersey that day.