Despite two summit finishes scheduled in the first week of the Tour de France, the first fight between the favourites has eventually been postponed to the Pyrenees. In the unprecedented final at Mont Aigoual on Thursday, the GC contenders did not make any move and no gap was therefore created behind Alexey Lutsenko’s winning breakaway. With the places addition, Thibaut Pinot moved up one rank overall and is now twelfth, thirteen seconds behind the yellow jersey Adam Yates. His next appointment is Loudenvielle on Saturday.
“We didn’t see much, but we expected it”, Thibaut Pinot
One day after a breakaway-less stage, a very intense start launched day six of the Tour de France 2020. Riders and spectators indeed knew that the breakaway had a real chance of success on Thursday, and this is why a real fight took place for several minutes in front of the bunch. It finally took ten kilometers for the right group to emerge and gain ground. Inside it, there were Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Jesus Herrada (Cofidis), Nicolas Roche (Sunweb), Greg Van Avermaet (CCC), Edvald Boasson Hagen (NTT), Neilson Powless (EF Pro Cycling) and Daniel Oss (Bora-hansgrohe). For the first and quite linear 140 kilometers, these runaways got a six-minute advantage at best on the peloton, where Mitchelton-Scott was in control. Still, the race’s pace remained consistently high. “The riders had a back wind and the roads were also suitable for high average speed”, explained Thierry Bricaud. “There was also a strong breakaway in front, so it was a fast day indeed ”.
Entering the last thirty-five kilometers, almost entirely uphill through the Col de Mouzères (5.8 km at 5.1%), the Col de la Lusette (12 km at 7%) and the Mont Aigoual ( 7.8 km at 4%), the peloton was still more than three minutes behind the breakaway. Then, while the fight started up front in the most difficult Col de la Lusette’s sections, it never occured back in the bunch. Alexey Lutsenko soloed to the stage victory while the favourites stayed calm in the wheels, following Ineos’ tempo. “We didn’t see much, but we expected it because the climb to Mont Aigoual was almost a ten-kilometer false flat. The top of the col de la Lusette was located far too far away to attempt anything, but it’s still a useful stage in a Grand Tour,” said Thibaut Pinot after his 14th place at the top.
“We’re getting our riders back one by one, that’s pretty encouraging”, Thierry Bricaud
“It’s not so surprising not to have seen a fight,” said Thierry Bricaud. “With the breakaway in front, the race happened that way. Also, the summit of La Lusette being far from the finish line, it would have been spending energy for very little gain, if any. It was a bit of a waste. So it’s not a surprise, but we still expected it to be a bit faster in the climbs. In the end, no one really wanted to take the initiative. Knowing that the breakaway had also taken the bonus points at the top of the Lusette, the intensity never raised in the peloton. I think the main favourites are also a little afraid of what lies ahead, and nobody wants to show their cards too early”. Forty riders or so finished within the time of the yellow jersey, or almost, including Thibaut Pinot, but also Sébastien Reichenbach, Valentin Madouas and Rudy Molard. Without a back wheel puncture, David Gaudu would also have completed the stage with his teammates. “There was no point in pushing,” added Thierry. “Still, we’re getting our riders back one by one after the first weekend’s crashes. It’s quite encouraging for the future. Thibaut’s teammates are back in the game and are willing to do well, that’s reassuring”.
Before reaching the Pyrenees on Saturday, for what will undoubtedly be the first battle between the favorites, another sprint stage looms tomorrow between Millau and Lavaur, where Mark Cavendish won back in 2011. “When we compete for the overall on the Tour de France, there is no real transition stage”, concluded Thierry. “It can be tricky every day, so you have to be focused and careful every day. Obviously, on paper, it doesn’t seem like the most difficult stage of this Tour, and there are no particular traps to avoid, but we will have to be attentive nonetheless”. After an “average” day, Thibaut Pinot simply added: “The Pyrenees are coming, so we’ll see in the Pyrenees”.