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Marcel Kittel takes Tour de France Stage 6 in sprint

James Spender
6 Jul 2017

A long day in the peloton culminates in the predicted sprint with Marcel Kittel the winner

Marcel Kittel produced a well-timed sprint finish to win Stage 6 of the 2017 Tour de France – his second stage win of this year's race.

At 216km long, basically flat bar two fourth cat climbs, this stage was always likely to be about the sprint, and Kittel didn't disappoint, holding off green jersey holder Arnaud Demare and German sprint rival Andre Greipel.

Direct Energie’s Perrig Quemeneur, Frederik Backaert (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE Team Emirates) broke from the gun and held the break for over 200km before reeled in, but for most part riders were just happy to get safely around after a leg-shreddingly fast day yesterday and the crashes and controversy that have dogged this year’s Tour already. The temperature was searing, but the real heat only turned on in the last 10km.

Not enough points were on offer for the polka jersey to leave Fabio Aru’s shoulders regardless of who took them, and a well-drilled Team Sky rode sensibly to protect GC leader Chris Froome and preserve his 12-second advantage. 

Today was all about the sprint, and that went to Kittel in fine style.

How it happened

Stage 6 began in predictable fashion, Direct Energie’s Perrig Quemeneur attacking from the gun, joined by Frederik Backaert (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE Team Emirates).

With 162km to go of the 216km from Vesoul to Troyes, the trio had been allowed a 3:40 gap over a peloton led by the usual suspects of Team Sky, Direct Energie, Lotto Soudal, Quick-Step Floors and Astana. 

A pretty much flat stage with only two fourth category climbs, there were not enough points on offer to change the polka dot standings, leaving Fabio Aru (Astana) as the day’s KoM. But with the last climb 62km out and with 70 points on offer, today was one to shake up the green jersey competition, led going in to today’s stage by Arnaud Demare (FDJ) with Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors), Michael Matthews (Sunweb)and Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) in his wake.

Still, of those few climbers points, the first went to Frenchman Quemeneur as the breaking trio crested the short, relatively steep Cote de Langres with some 150km still to go.

With temperatures in the high thirties it was no surprise there were plenty of bidons being squirted on heads and ice packs going around the peloton, but no-one could have foreseen a full-on parasol blowing into the pack and nearly taking out Katusha-Alpecin rider Tiago Machago and the Sky train.

Meanwhile, a press release had come through from Bora-hansgrohe, stating that they were still appealing the decision to DQ Sagan, and that should the UCI renege Sagan would ‘re-engage in the Tour… to compete for a successful Tour de France 2017’, prompting David Millar to puff his cheeks and blow a raspberry down his microphone at the thought of this ridiculously unlikely outcome. Still, stranger thing, Dave.

Intermediate sprint points with 80km to go were taken by Wanty’s Backaert, with Laengen and Quemeneur in tow, leaving Demare to come in first from the chasing bunch – just over two minutes back – for fourth place and 13 points.

News was coming in that the finish in Troyes could be in for a storm, but this wasn’t on the mind of Laurent Pichon (Fortuneo-Oscaro) who threw caution to the gathering winds and dug seriously deep to try and bridge the gap to the breakaway trio, out front since the first kilometre and with 1m30s the difference. Fortuneo sponsors were no doubt happy with the airtime, but Pichon finally succumbed to the grim reality he wasn’t going to make it, sitting up to be reabsorbed by a bunch that was beginning to organise for the run in to the sprint in 20km’s time. 

FDJ were of course trying to control things for Demare, with the Lotto-Soudal boys looking to get their man Greipel into an advantageous position in the final mix too.

Upping speed to 60kmh for stretches, to the breakaway’s 44kmh and falling, the peloton began mercilessly reeling in the suicide squad, who had put in a sterling effort to remain away for over 200km. Rain still threatened in Troyes, but would it come in time to wreak havoc on finish?

The answer, mercifully, was no. 

The catch came with 3.1km to go and the big sprinters' trains started organising, with Dimension Data right on the front for Boasson-Hagen, Quick-Step in tow and the only complication a slight sweeping chicane in the road before the finish. This would be a classically fought sprint with the right guys in the right place. All except Kittel, back on 20th wheel.

Boasson-Hagen is on the front, everyone on the back and... Demare hits the front, then boom! A steam-training Marcel Kittel bursts through at 50m to go to pip Demare to the post.

Tour de France 2017: Stage 6: Vesoul - Troyes (216km), result

1. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Quick-Step Floors, in 5:05:34 2. Arnaud Démare (Fra) FDJ, at same time 3. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Soudal, st 4. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin, st 5. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, st 6. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, st 7. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb, st 8. Daniel McLay (GBr) Fortuneo-Oscaro, st 9. Rüdiger Selig (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, st 10. John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo, st 

Tour de France 2017: General classification top 10 after Stage 6

1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, in 23:44:33 2. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, at 0:12 3. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team, at 0:14 4. Dan Martin (Irl) Quick Step Floors, at 0:25 5. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, at 0:39 6. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 0:43 7. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, at 0:47 8. Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek Segafredo, at 0:52 9. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, at 0:54 10. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora Hansgrohe, at 1:01