Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) powered to victory on stage six of the Tour de France, perfectly executing his sprint in the final 400 metres to cross the finish line first, and consequently move into the yellow jersey, too.
Pogačar's UAE teammates Rafał Majka and Brandon McNulty led him up the final climb of this year's longest Tour stage, before the Slovenian launched his sprint at the front of the pack. Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) initially overtook him, but in the end the reigning champion had too much strength and speed towards the line.
Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) and Jakob Fuglsang (Israel-Premier Tech) created the first breakaway in the day that stuck, with the trio's lead growing to four minutes. However, Fuglsang dropped off the front midway through the race, with Simmons also unable to match the pace set by Van Aert.
Consequently, Van Aert had to complete a 30km solo attack if he wanted to win another stage of this year's Tour, as well as extend his lead on GC. This didn't come to fruition, however, with the Belgian caught by the peloton with 11km remaining in the race.
Van Aert would soon relinquish control of the yellow jersey as well, falling off the back of the peloton. Therefore, Pogačar will wear the yellow jersey for stage seven tomorrow, which concludes with a summit finish on La Planche des Belles Filles.
HOW IT HAPPENED
An action packed day on the cobbles for stage five of the Tour de France caused plenty of movement within the general classification, with Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) the biggest mover up to second place.
However, Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) just about managed to hang onto the yellow jersey, which he lined up wearing once again for the longest stage of the 2022 Tour - a 220km ride from Binche to Longwy. Starting in Belgium, the race headed through the Ardennes before finishing in France.
The race started with a hectic battle to get into the breakaway, with riders such as Van Aert, John Degenkolb (Team DSM), Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) and Brent Van Moer (Lotto Soudal) all attempting to make moves. Strong winds also started to affect proceedings, causing the bunch to spread out as echelons formed.
Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Benoît Cosnefroy (AG2R Citroën) and Toms Skujiņš (Trek-Segafredo) eventually managed to create the first break of the day after 15km. A group of four riders, led by Van Aert, soon counter-attacked as they tried to bridge across the gap, but were unsuccessful in their attempts as the peloton quashed the attempt.
Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) decided to attack himself afterwards, and Amund Grøndahl Jansen (BikeExchange-Jayco) soon joined him in his endeavour. Van Aert continued to drive the peloton on from here, with the front three riders a minute ahead after the opening 30km of racing - Wellens and Jansen were stuck halfway in between.
In a lively start to the race, the attacks from the peloton continued to come, most notably from the yellow jersey wearer. However, he couldn't quite manage to get away from the bunch, despite his best efforts in bringing other riders, such as Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) along with him. Due to the pace in the peloton, plenty of riders were dropped off the back.
With the average pace for the opening 70km of racing above 50kmh, stage six was certainly a frantic one. The breakaway riders were caught around this point, unable to maintain the intensity required to stave off the peloton behind.
Eventually, though, a trio of Wout Van Aert, Quinn Simmons and Jakob Fuglsang (Israel-Premier Tech) stole a march on the other riders. They quickly built up their lead to over a minute, the peloton eventually settling to allow them the gap following a hectic opening 80km.
On the approach to the Côte des Mazures, the first of three categorised climbs, Van Aert suffered an issue with his chain. However, the Belgian managed to quickly get it back on his bike and catch Simmons and Fuglsang up the hill. Once the peloton had summited the Côte des Mazures, the breakaway's lead stood at 2-30.
With 100km remaining, the time gap stood at four minutes. The majority of the riders who were dropped earlier on in the race also managed to make it back onto the peloton, albeit having worked extremely hard to do so. However, with Bora-Hansgrohe, UAE Team Emirates, EF Education-EasyPost and Alpecin-Deceuninck working at the front of the bunch, the breakaway's lead was slowly diminishing.
By the intermediate sprint at Carigan, coming with 75km left, the gap dropped below two minutes. Van Aert picked up the maximum points here though, further extending his lead in the points classification.
Shortly afterwards, though, Fuglsang pulled to the side of the road, leaving just Simmons and Van Aert to plough their furrow at the front of the race. Their continued to push hard, working together to keep their gap to the peloton at two minutes. This was the time gap with 50km to go.
Over the next 20km their lead started to fall, dropping to just a minute as the peloton started upping the tempo. With 30km remaining, though, Van Aert dropped Simmons, the American rider unable to match the pace the Belgian managed to set. With EF Education-EasyPost dragging the bunch along, Simmons was caught 4km later.
Van Aert not only managed to stave off the pressure from the peloton at this point, but actually extend his lead to 1-10 at the front. Despite his phenomenal efforts, the peloton soon started to eat into his time over the next 15km, the gap falling to just 20 seconds.
The final 15km of the race featured plenty of undulations, adding an extra dimension to the ride to Longwy.
Eventually, the bunch caught Van Aert with 11km to go on the stage, and soon surpassed him as he dropped out the back, opting to fall out of contention of the yellow jersey with his audacious but nonetheless commendable attempt for the stage win.
On the penultimate climb of the day up Côte de Pulventeux, an 800m ascent at 11%, Alexis Vuillermoz (TotalEnergies) attacked. The Frenchman picked up the mountains classification points on offer, with Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) also making an attack of his own with 4km remaining.
Vuillermoz couldn't gain too much ground by himself, though, with Jumbo-Visma, UAE Team Emirates and Ineos Grenadiers all powering along to keep pace. He still had the lead heading up the final climb with 2km left, but was caught with 1.3km until the finish line.
Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) dragged Pogačar up the hill on the final kilometre, and, with 400m Pogačar launched his sprint. Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) initally overtook his fellow countryman, but the reigning champion fought back to comfortably cross the line with a couple of metres in reserve.
Consequently, finishing first earned Pogačar crucial bonus seconds on GC, helping him to move into the overall lead of the Tour de France, taking the yellow jersey away from Van Aert. Powless finished in the same group as Pogačar, but couldn't gain any extra time with a higher finish, and has to settle for being four seconds behind the Slovenian.
TOUR DE FRANCE 2022 STAGE SIX RESULTS
1. Tadej Pogačar (Svn) UAE Team Emirates, in 4-27-13
2. Michael Matthews (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco
3. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
4. Tom Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
5. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkéa Samsic
6. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Victorious
7. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma
8. Daniel Felipe Martínez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers
9. Primož Roglič (Svn) Jumbo-Visma
10. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE SIX
1. Tadej Pogačar (Svn) UAE Team Emirates, in 20-44-44
2. Neilson Powless (USA) EF Education-EasyPost, at 4s
3. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 31s
4. Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 39s
5. Tom Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 40s
6. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 46s
7. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 52s
8. Daniel Felipe Martínez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-00
9. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM, at 1-01
10. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 1-02
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Ryan is a staff writer for Cycling Weekly, having joined the team in September 2021. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before making his way to cycling. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer.
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