Tour de France 2021
Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) powered to his second stage win of the Tour de France 2021, beating Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) and Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic) to the win in Châteauroux on stage six.
The Manxman rode the wheels perfectly in the final straight, moving from the wheel of his team-mate Michael Mørkøv on the left of the road into the wheel of Philipsen and Tim Merlier on the right. That put Cavendish into the perfect place for when Philipsen launched his sprint first, quickly powering around him in the final metres to the line to take a clear victory.
Nacer Bouhanni attempted to try and grab the win from behind, but came far too late to stop Cavendish taking victory, being pipped to second place by the Belgian Philipsen.
It’s Cavendish’s 32nd stage win of the Tour de France, just two stages away from equalling the record tally of stage wins.
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) retains the overall lead over Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) after they both finished safely in the main bunch.
Stage six of the Tour de France 2021 looked to be a classic transition stage on the roads from Tours to Châteauroux, with an almost completely flat profile over the 160.4km route, save for the solitary category four climb midway through.
The sprint teams would be motivated to take the opportunity and not let a breakaway get all the way to the line, with three difficult climbing stages coming up over the weekend.
Some riders had other ideas however, with an elite group of eight riders escaping after a frantic start following the flag drop.
That group included Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Greg Van Avermaet (Ag2r Citroën), Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Søren Kragh Andersen (Team DSM), Toms Skujiņš (Trek-Segafredo), Jonas Rickaert (Alpecin-Fenix), Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe), and Georg Zimmermann (Intermarché).
They managed to achieve an early gap of over a minute, but cohesion was hard to come by with the likes of Rickaert not helping make the pace, as he tried to pull things back together for race leader Mathieu van der Poel and his sprinters Jasper Philipsen and Tim Merlier.
De Gendt and Van Avermaet did their best to try and make the group work together, but the gap began to dwindle as the sprint teams of Groupama-FDJ and Arkéa-Samsic worked to try and pull them back.
With around 128km to go they were all back together except for Van Avermaet, who decided to head out solo. The peloton allowed him to get two minutes up the road before Roger Kluge (Lotto-Soudal) went to try and join him in his fruitless endeavour, finally making it up to him with 118km to go.
And that’s how things stayed for more or less the rest of the stage with a gap of around two minutes for much of the time.
The next piece of significant action came at the intermediate sprint with 56.2km to go, which was hotly contested amongst the sprinters after Van Avermaet and Kluge had been through. In the end Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) took the third-place 15 points, with Michael Mørkøv behind him, and Philipsen next collecting the fifth place points. Green jersey Mark Cavendish was able to collect nine points as he took seventh place.
As the peloton settled down after the sprint the gap to the leading pair stabilised at around 45 seconds, but the sprint teams always looked in control of when they would make the catch.
The catch eventually came with 2.5km to go after Deceuninck-Quick-Step and Alpecin-Fenix led the way in setting things up for a bunch sprint. Those two teams were then the dominant trains in the final kilometre, with yellow jersey Van der Poel dropping off Philipsen and Merlier on the right of the road, with Mørkøv leading Cavendish on the left.
After Cavendish managed to move into the wheel of the Alpecin train with 500m to go, there was nothing anyone could do to stop him powering past to take the stage victory, his second of the 2021 Tour. Cavendish also extends his lead in the points competition, with a healthy 148 to Philipsen’s 102 in second place.
There were no changes in the top-10 on GC, with Tadej Pogačar remaining eight seconds behind Van der Poel in yellow.
The peloton will face a much sterner test on stage seven, a long 249.1km stage with a huge amount of climbing in the second half, which could see a breakaway triumph.
Stage 6 result:
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, 3:17:36
2. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
3. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Team Arkéa-Samsic
4. Arnaud Démare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
5. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
6. Cees Bol (Ned) Team DSM
7. Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
8. Wout van Aert (Bel) Team Jumbo-Visma
9. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team BikeExchange
10. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo, all at the same time
1. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix, in 20:09:17
2. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 8s
3. Wout van Aert (Bel) Team Jumbo-Visma, at 30s
4. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 48s
5. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech, at 1:21
6. Pierre Latour (Fra) Team TotalEnergies, at 1:28
7. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Education-Nippo, at 1:29
8. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Team Jumbo-Visma, at 1:43
9. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1:44
10. Primož Roglič (Slo) Team Jumbo-Visma, at 1:48