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Tour de France 2019: Dylan Teuns wins Stage 6 on La Planche Des Belles Filles, but Giulio Ciccone takes yellow

Martin James
11 Jul 2019

Bahrain-Merida rider takes the stage, but Ciccone ends the day smiling despite Alaphilippe's heroics approaching the line

Image credit: Eurosport

Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Merida) outlasted fellow breakaway compatriot Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) on the brutal final kilometre of La Planche Des Belles Filles to claim victory at the end of a punishing Stage 6 of the 2019 Tour de France.

However, Ciccone's effort was enough to take the yellow jersey from the shoulders of Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) by just 6 seconds despite a heroic effort in the final kilometre that left all but Ineos's Geraint Thomas of the race favourites floundering in the dust.

Ciccone finished 11 seconds behind Belgian Teuns, but the 6 bonus seconds he gained for second place ended up making literally all the difference. Another rider involved in the day's main break, Xandro Meurisse (Wanty-Gobert) was third, but Thomas showed strength where it mattered to push on as the line approached. In the end Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FdJ) was fifth, just passing his compatriot Alaphilippe on the line.

But in reality it was Alaphilippe who was the real hero, attacking just when all eyes were looking to the likes of Romain Bardet (AG2R), Egan Bernal (Ineos), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida). Sadly, though, it wasn't quite enough to hold on to yellow.

And with that in mind, Thomas made huge strides towards retaining his Tour title with a quietly dominant performance, producing speed when it mattered to put time into all his rivals.

How it unfolded

After five days of entertaining racing, the 2019 Tour presented its first serious test for those looking to stand on the final podium in Paris with a 160.5km test culminating in an ascent of the first-category La Planche des Belles Filles.

It’s a climb the Tour has visited before, most recently in 2017, but for this year the organisers have tacked on an extra kilometre of steep climbing at the end on gravel, with the climb now topping out at an altitude of 1,140m.

Given the difficulty of the final week, and the fact that the next summit finish only comes next weekend with the ascent of the mighty Tourmalet, the Tour wouldn’t be won on La Planche des Belles Filles.

But the GC hopefuls also knew a bad day today could leave them well adrift of their main rivals with more than two weeks still to race.

And with a further six categorised climbs to contend with across the stage, it’s fair to say the race had a different feel to it as the peloton headed out of Mulhouse at the start of the day.

Despite the busy day of climbing to come, it wasn’t long before a group of 14 hopefuls set off down the road, eager to build a gap on the flat roads before the intermediate sprint on 29km.

And build a gap they did, quickly going past 5 minutes before the peloton behind showed any interest in minding the gap.

At the sprint at Linthal, Andrea Pasqualon (Wanty-Gobert) came past Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin) on the line to take the points, André Greipel popping up in third for Arkea-Samsic.

With that it was onto the first of three 1st category ascents on the menu, the climb of Le Markstein (10.8km at 5.4%). By now the gap was upwards of 7 minutes, the lieutenants of Team Ineos and Deceuninck-QuickStep riding on the front but unwilling to put down too many watts with so much hard work to come.

Unsurprisingly given the mountains points on offer for the day, the polka dot jersey of Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) was present in the break for the second day running, this time with teammate Thomas De Gendt for company.

Also present was Giro mountains jersey winner Ciccone, clearly interested in picking up some points himself. And with a deficit of less than two minutes to yellow jersey holder Alaphilippe, who surely saw the outside chance of ending the day in the maillot jaune.

Realistically, the bigger threat to Alaphilippe would likely be well placed GC contenders like Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma, 3rd at 25 seconds) and Ineos pair Bernal and Thomas in 6th and 7th.

Yet so far, so good. And if his team could keep him in contention into the final climb, maybe Alaphillipe could hold on, with the likely prospect of several more days in yellow ahead if he could.

Wellens duly took the points at the top of Le Markstein from Ciccone, with the increase in speed near the top shattering the group apart. The next climb came nearly immediately, the 3rd category Grand Ballon, rising to the day’s high point of 1,336m, but there was enough time in between for the group to come together.

This time De Gendt was the Lotto-Soudal rider pushing Ciccone into second, the group again reforming over the top.

Natnael Berhane (Cofidis) broke things up by taking the 2nd category Col du Hundsruck on 74km from Wellens and Ciccone. Still the gap to the peloton was 7 minutes, and still it was QuickStep’s Kasper Asgreen on the front, as he had been for nearly the entire stage.

With half the stage gone, it was all still to play for. Onto the next climb, the Ballon d’Alsace (11km at 5.8%) and still the gap remained at 8 minutes. They were riding well together too, and at the top it was Wellens again.

Behind, though, a change came in the peloton with the blue of Movistar replacing the blue of, well, Asgreen. On its own that took a minute off the break’s advantage by the top, yet with 55km remaining the still had 7 minutes, and every chance of staying clear.

It also started to string the peloton out, and on the following descent splits started to appear.

The next climb, the 3rd category Col des Croix on 123.5km, looked a mere afterthought all things considered, but that wasn’t considering De Gendt, who initially looked simply to be covering the points for Wellens, but then pushed on alone after taking the climb to shake things up.

It duly did that, but in the end he paid a price. Before the top of the short but steep 2nd category Col de Chevreres he was caught by Wellens, Ciccone, Xandro Meurisse (Wanty-Gobert) and Teuns, who was finally showing his face at the front after choosing not to contest any of the earlier climbs – a tactic that would pay handsome dividends.

Movistar continued to turn the screws behind, and by the top of the climb, with 19km to go, the gap was 4 minutes.

But of course the Planche Des Belles Filles was still to come. Just 7km long in total, the average of 8.7% was deceptive given that final kilometre on gravel, which included sections of up to 24%. Still the leaders had four minutes, which would surely now be enough to claim the stage.

A select group of 40 or so riders hit the climb behind, led by World Champion Alejandro Valverde but with the yellow jersey of Alaphilippe riding strongly towards the front. Up front, the four leaders started jockeying for position, as the lead continued to tumble – a dangerous game with still more than 5km to go.

Soon Valverde's work was done, and he peeled off. Teammates Landa and Quintana remained in contention, though, but Ineos had taken over the pacesetting, Thomas and Bernal being pulled along by Michal Kwiatkowski. Yet there in fourth place was Alaphilippe, the prospect of keeping the yellow jersey now a real prospect with the leaders now under three minutes ahead.

And by leaders, by now we had just two – Teuns and Ciccone, with first Wellens then Meurisse giving best and falling back.

With 3.5km remaining we finally saw the first attack from the peloton as French champion Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic) went clear. Then Landa had a go, trying to make Movistar's multi-pronged leadership strategy pay. Ineos kept the metronome ticking around them, mopping up all but Landa in quick order then continuing the pacesetting in pursuit. Then Kwiatkowski was gone, and Thibaut Pinot and David Gaudu (Groupama-FdJ) emerged at the front of the dwindling front group, 15 seconds behind Landa.

But the gravel was still to come, and made all the difference at the front in deciding the stage, and Alaphilippe's hold on the yellow jersey behind.