Stage 6 of the 2011 Tour de France was a mostly by-the-numbers affair that gave the sprinters a chance to stretch their legs some, but in the end, it didn’t provide a whole lot of fireworks out on the course. At 226.5km (140.72 miles) in length, today’s leg of the race was the longest the riders will face this year. Stretching from Dinan to Lisieux, the day began as wet, rainy one, and ended with the sun finally peeking out as the riders crossed the finished line.
The winner of today’s stage was Edvald Boasson Hagen, a 24-year old Norwegian rider on Sky Procycling. He rode to a clean sprint finish just ahead of Australian Matthew Harley Goss and Thor Hushovd, who finished in second and third respectively. The rest of the pack streamed in behind them, with most of the major contenders for the GC holding their positions in the overall standings.
At the end of the day, Hushovd stayed in Yellow once again, and will likely do so into the weekend at this point. Johnny Hoogerland of the Netherlands claimed the Polka Dot Jersey after leading a breakaway for several hours. He, and the rest of his mates in the break, easily cleaned up the climbing points that were available on the two Category 3 and single Category 4 climbs that were on the course today. The real climbers will have their chance to earn points in the Pyrenees and the Alps soon enough. Once again, Thomas Geraint holds on to the White Jersey as the best young rider in the race.
The battle for the Green Jersey, awarded to the sprinters, is heating up, as Belgian Philippe Gilbert now holds a one point margin over Jose Joaquin Rojas of spain. Both have worn the Jersey on previous stages, and it looks like they intend to challenge one another throughout the course. Other big sprinters, like Mark Cavendish and Tyler Farrar are further back in the standings, but there are still plenty of sprint points to be earned over the next few weeks.
Despite the rain-slicked roads, there were fewer crashes today than yesterday, although American rider Levi Leipheimer did go down in a solo crash late in the race. Leipheimer skidded across a very slick white line on the side of the road, causing him to go down at the 5km mark. He appeared un-hurt, and quickly climbed back on his bike, but ended up losing precious time. Heading into today, he was mixed in with a group of riders just a few seconds off the pace, but after the fall, he dropped to 31st place, 1:23 back.
Tomorrow’s stage will run from Le Mans to Chateauroux, covering 218km (135.44 miles) on a mostly flat route that never rises above 100 meters in height. There will be more sprint points up for grabs, so watch for the big guns, like Cavendish, Farrar, Rojas and Gilbert to be jockeying for position. The sprinters have been looking forward to tomorrow, and they should set a very high pace. The weekend will bring the first real challenging climbs to the race, although the first true mountain stages are still a week away.
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