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Tour de France

Tour de France stage 6: Tadej Pogačar takes stunning win and yellow jersey

Wout van Aert out of yellow as Pogačar takes race lead, and Powless misses out.

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Tadej Pogačar followed up his strong showing on the cobbles with a similarly impressive blitz through the Ardennes on Thursday, nabbing the seventh Tour de France stage win of his career.

The UAE Team Emirates rider answered an early jump by Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) inside the final 400 metres of a hilly finale, blasting clear of the others in a select front group and hitting the line first.

Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange-Jayco), David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) and Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) were second through to fourth, with Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) seventh, Dani Martinez (Ineos Grenadiers) eighth and Roglič ninth.

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Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) was also in the group at the same time as Pogačar, as was Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost). The latter was hoping to take the yellow jersey after Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) spent much of the stage off the front and was eventually caught and dropped, but Pogačar’s time bonus for the win saw the Slovenian nab the maillot jaune and the American end the day four seconds back.

Vingegaard, Yates, Pidcock and Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) all move up into the top six of the general classification, even if Thomas lost five seconds at the finish.

“Every time I win it is even better,” Pogačar said. “Today was so hard from the start, the first two hours were so crazy. The strongest guy [Van Aert] went in the breakaway, a lot of guys pulling in the peloton, all our team as well. I was thinking he would come to the finish, but in the end the peloton was stronger.

“We got to the final climbs and I was feeling good. The team did an incredible good job bringing me to the perfect position. I am so happy.”

Pogačar’s win saw him outpace the known fastman Matthews, but the stage winner pointed out that things were made complicated for the Australian by the nature of the finale. “It was not a pure sprint, because we rode the last two climbs really hard. It was above our thresholds and was super-hard to the final climb, hectic and everything. I guess I had good legs to push at the end.”

Attacking in the Ardennes

Stage six of the Tour de France swapped Roubaix-style cobbles for the undulating terrain seen at some of the other spring classics.

Starting in Binche in Belgium and running 219.9 kilometers to Longwy in France, the stage moved through the Ardennes, taking in two category three climbs, one category four and a lot of other ascents that were not officially ranked but would sap the strength regardless.

Numerous breakaway attempts were fired off but it took several kilometers for something a little more durable to be established. Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert), Benoit Cosnefroy (AG2R-Citroen) and Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo) combined together to open a lead, prompting a surprising Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and others to try to get across.

Van Aert had had a tough day on Wednesday, crashing and then being required to drop back to help teammate Jonas Vingegaard to try to rejoin the other general classification leaders. The Belgian spent a lot of the stage working hard at the front, a different use of the same horsepower which saw him blaze to a superb solo win on Tuesday, but rather than being fatigued, was clearly on another good day on Thursday.

Race leader going out in style

Wout Van Aert (Team Jumbo – Visma) and Quinn Simmons (Trek – Segafredo) animated the stage (Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images)

The Belgian was reeled in by the bunch before bridging to the leading trio, who were over a minute clear after approximately 30 kilometers of racing. However he remained prominent and after a chase effort by Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) and Amund Grøndahl Jansen (BikeExchange-Jayco) was pulled back, tried attacking several times. The original break was reeled in and Van Aert contributed to the recapture of a subsequent 10-man move.

He finally snapped the elastic after approximately 55 kilometers of racing, joining forces with teammate Steven Kruijswijk, Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) and Jakob Fuglsang (Israel-PremierTech). Kruijswijk then dropped back, leaving three leaders out front and consigning many riders out the back as a result of the day’s early aggression. These included UAE Team Emirates riders George Bennett and Marc Hirschi, important members of Tadej Pogačar’s squad who were showing surprising fatigue at this early point of the Tour.

Simmons led the break over the category three Côte des Mazures (km 87.2), with the peloton two and a half minutes in arrears at that point and soon slipping further back to four minutes down.

Van Aert took the intermediate sprint (km 145.9), adding to his lead in the green jersey contest, ahead of Fuglsang and Simmons, while back in the peloton Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) beat Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-QuickStep) to the line.

The peloton had been working harder and reduced the break’s gap to under two minutes soon afterwards, prompting Fuglsang to sit up and head back to the peloton. Van Aert and Simmons were undeterred, and indeed knuckled down even more to limit the efforts of the bunch to recoup time.

Van Aert goes it alone

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) eventually pushed on alone, impressing in holding off the peloton for many kilometres (Photo: Alex Broadway/Getty Images)

Simmons was looking more and more uncomfortable with the pace-setting, with Van Aert impressing in yellow. However despite his horsepower the peloton was gradually bringing them back, and was just 1 minute 4 seconds back behind with 31 kilometers remaining. Simmons cracked completely at that point, rapidly losing time on the lone leader who stubbornly pressed on.

Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma massed at the front to set things up for their GC leaders in advance of the lumpy finale. This hewed Van Aert’s lead down to 46 seconds with 20 kilometers remaining, and just 16 seconds heading over the category four climb with some 15 kilometers left. He was finally caught on the category three Côte de Pulventeux four kilometers later and went straight out the back.

The other Jumbo-Visma riders were at the front of the bunch, looking after Vingegaard. BikeExchange led the bunch onto the final categorized climb, while behind Aleksandr Vlasov was chasing with his Bora-Hansgrohe team after being tangled up in a crash.

Alexis Vuillermoz (TotalEnergies) jumped clear with about 5.6 kilometers left, getting a gap. Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) jumped away in pursuit and went across the top of the climb in second place, tracked by David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) and several others. Vuillermoz still had a gap and dug in to try to maintain a gap over the UAE Team Emirates-led peloton, with the chase then being taken over by Jumbo-Visma.

The Frenchman was finally caught with 1.4 kilometers left. UAE Team Emirates led the bunch into the final 500 metres, with Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) jumping hard but being caught and passed by Pogačar, who easily gapped Michael Matthews (Bike Exchange-Jayco) and Gaudu.

The time bonus saw him finish the day four seconds clear of Powless in the yellow jersey. Asked if it had been important for him to take it, he said it wasn’t his priority.

“No, I wouldn’t mind it, but for sure I am super happy to take the win,” he said. “Anything else is just a bonus. We will think about this in the next days.”

Results will be available once stage has completed.

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