Tour de France 2013: Stage 6 preview

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Tour de France 2013 stage six
Thursday, July 4
From Aix-en-Provence
Distance 176.5km
Stage type Flat

Yellow jersey 1/5
Green jersey 5/5
Polka-dot jersey 0/5

If there’s a stage of this year’s Tour that could tempt us into staying put and sacking off the rest of the race, it’s this one. Aix en Provence, the picturesque university town in Provence where the stage begins, lends weight to the view that there are few more charming regions to France.

The Tour’s art lesson continues too. The town was once home to Paul Cezanne, the impressionist painter who captured the Montagne Sainte-Victoire, the rocky protuberance that dominates the landscape to the east. His works are blurred and blocky, much like a dodgy online video stream.

Montpellier is equally pleasant, marred only slightly by permanent roadworks and a one-way system that even the UCI Technical Commission couldn’t have dreamt up.

More flat roads, more wind, and more beautiful Provençal landscapes. If anything, today’s route is further exposed to strong gusts than yesterday’s. With no hills forcing the roads to twist and turn, the straight sections are much longer. That means that when there is a change in direction (and therefore in the relative direction of the wind), the fight for position is as intense as for the final sprint.

The chances are, it’s going to end in a sprint – but it could be more complicated than yesterday’s stage. In the past, Tour organisers have used a sinuous, twisting and narrow run-in to Montpellier. In 2007, there was chaos, as crashes took out many of the best sprinters. Robbie Hunter emerged as winner by virtue of being the last sprinter left upright.

The sixth day of the race – with the hills and mountains looming – is the last certain chance for a sprint until Brittany. The dramatic tension at this point comes between sprinters who have already won a stage and those who have not.

Related links

Tour de France 2013: Coverage index