Robbie McEwen (Davitamon) took his third sprint win in this year’s Tour thanks to a perfect leadout from his team mate Gert Steegmans in Vitre.
The Aussie pocket rocket seemed too far back in the final kilometre but as Lampre lead out the sprint close to the barriers, Steegmans dragged McEwen to the front down the middle of the road and then McEwen finished off perfectly with a strong burst in the final 200 metres.
Daniele Bennati (Lampre) finished second despite suffering after his crash on Thursday and Tom Boonen (Quick Step) was third, again banged his handlebars in frustration as he watched McEwen celebrate.
Boonen has still not won a stage at this year’s Tour but kept the yellow jersey. McEwen is now second overall at 12 seconds and Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) is third at 21 seconds.
David Millar (Saunier Duval) finished in 39th place, in the same time as McEwen, and is now 14th overall at 41 seconds. Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) was 116th and is now 157th at 15-22.
It was McEwen’s 11th Tour win of his career and also strengthened his lead in the green points jersey competition.
“The fun doesn’t stop,” McEwen said with a smile.
“This is the best Tour I’ve ever had. Last year it took me 13 stages to get three wins. This year I’ve done it in six stages.”
“Steegmans did great job just like he did on stage four. He made a mistake yesterday but we talked about it and he was perfect today. It was like sitting on TGV and all I had to do was get off at my stop. I told Gert to wait until 400m and then he took off. It was pretty straight forward and I have to really thank my teams. for this win.”
Yet again the stage was characterised by an early break, except this time race leader Tom Boonen was also in the move.
After a first hour at 49km/h Boonen went clear with 16 other riders, including Thor Hushovd and overall contender Patrick Sinkewitz (T-Mobile).
The move was quickly chased by CSC who were working to keep Dave Zabriskie within a shot of the yellow jersey in Saturday’s time trial, and Davitamon, working for sprinter Robbie McEwen, and so Magnus Backstedt (Liquigas), Florent Brard (Caisse d’Epargne) and Anthony Geslin (Bouygues) counter-attacked and formed another move.
They were allowed to go clear and stayed away until six kilometres from the finish, when Lampre and Quick Step took over to lead out the sprint.
TIME FOR THE TIME TRIAL
After a week of thrills and spills in the sprints, it is time for the overall contenders to show their form in Saturday’s 52km time trial around Rennes in Brittany. Floyd Landis (Phonak), Denis Menhov (Rabobank) George Hincapie and Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel), Michael Rogers, Andreas Kloden and Serhiy Honchar (T-Mobile) all have a chance of pulling on the yellow jersey if they ride well and will be out to gain as much time as possible on their rivals before next week’s mountain stages in the Pyrenees.
Time trial specialists David Millar (Saunier Duval) and Dave Zabriskie (CSC) will are also gunning for stage victory after missing out in the prologue last Saturday.
1 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 189km in 4.10.17 (45.308 km/h)
2 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
3 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step-Innergetic
4 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Francaise Des Jeux
5 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole
6 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
7 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram
8 Luca Paolini (Ita) Liquigas
9 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto
10 Inaki Isasi (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi all same time
Overall standings after six stages
1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step-Innergetic 29.21.00 (42.832 km/h)
2 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 0.12
3 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile 0.21
4 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank 0.25
5 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel
6 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole 0.27
7 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel 0.35
8 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 0.36
9 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears 0.37
10 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) T-Mobile