Five talking points from stage six of the Tour de France

Here's what got us talking on stage six of the 2016 Tour de France

Cavendish moves ahead of Hinault in the record books

Stage win number 29. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

Stage win number 29. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) took his 29th Tour de France stage win which moves him ahead of Bernard Hinault in the record books. Only Eddy Merckx now has more stage wins to his name.

>> Subscribe to Cycling Weekly this Autumn and save 35%. Enjoy the luxury of home delivery and never miss an issue <<

What’s more, with three stage wins in the first six stages of the 2016 Tour de France, this is already Cavendish’s equal best Tour since 2012 (when he was on a team dedicated to the GC with Sir Bradley Wiggins).

The Manxman crashed out on stage one in 2014 and managed only one stage win in 2015, causing some to write him off this year.

With the Tour de France serving mostly as an intense training block ahead of the Olympic Games, Cavendish has already silenced his critics at this year’s race. The stage win also puts him back in the green jersey.

Kittel simply wasn’t strong enough

Cavendish beats Kittel and McLay. Photo Yuzuru Sunada

Cavendish beats Kittel and McLay. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

So far this year Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quick Step) has come up short on the stages he’d expect to win and taken his only victory on a stage that didn’t suit him as well, on paper.

Second, seventh and second again on the three stages Cavendish has won, Kittel is misfiring this year and the disappointment was clearly etched on his face at the end of stage six.

Cavendish went early and Kittel was coming back to him but he didn’t have the dominating power he’s displayed in previous years.

Dan McLay (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) was also coming back at the stage winner and gained an impressive third place sprint in his début Tour.

Cavendish and McLay congratulate each other. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

Cavendish and McLay congratulate each other. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

Kittel’s Etixx team aren’t gelling particularly well so he can’t rely on a sleek lead out to deliver him to the finish, a factor that is probably counting against him more than the other sprinters.

The German said after the stage that the technical run in and narrow roads towards the end meant that his lead out train could not properly form or all stay together.

Many of his chief rivals can jump from wheel to wheel and get themselves in a winning position to a greater degree than Kittel can manage.

Another pretty tame day (until the end)

Not quite the yawn-fest we suffered on stage three but this still wasn’t a great race to watch. The break went, the break was brought back (eventually)… then things hotted up at the end.

It was all very formulaic, which in itself isn’t such a bad thing, but when it’s the same sort of thing for the at least the third time in the opening six stages, riders and spectators alike will tire of it.

Tame stages aren’t all bad though, and there is one very good thing to come out of the first six stages of the 2016 Tour de France

All 198 starters are still in the race

The peloton on stage 5 of the 2016 Tour de France

All 198 riders at the 2016 Tour de France are still racing. Photo: Graham Watson

Barring overnight sniffles or people getting lost on the way to the sign-on, it will be the first time in the Tour’s history that all 198 riders have still be in contention at the beginning of stage seven.

Crashes, illness or terrible form usually see a raft of riders forced out of the race in the opening days – think stage three in 2015, but this year has been different.

The sprints might be getting more dangerous but so far that hasn’t translated into more accidents, so let’s hope it stays that way.

Back in the mountains on stage seven

Tour de France 2016, stage 7 - Friday July 8, L'Isle-Jourdain to Lac de Payolle, 162km

Stage seven will cover 162.5km and take the riders but into the mountains. Starting in L’Isle-Jourdain and finishing in Lac de Payolle, there is a category one climb which peaks 7km from the finish, before a descent and smaller kick up to the finish line.

Fingers crossed we’ll get a proper shakedown of the GC favourites, and don’t be surprised to see Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) attacking on the descent in search of a stage win after his time loss on stage five which saw him drop out of overall contention.