Tour de France 2014: Rains Continue, Fireworks at the Finish

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With defending champ Chris Froome gone from the 2014 Tour de France, the race continued today across the rain soaked roads of the north. It was a day that was expected to belong to the sprinters, and those predictions ultimately turned out to be true. But while the peloton covered 194 km (120.5) between Arras and Reims, the riders had to deal with slick roads once again, causing more crashes, and cyclists to withdrawal from the race.

If you were watching the Stage 6 live, you didn’t see much to get excited about, as it was clear the riders were trying to be cautious as they made their way along the route. With just two Category 4 climbs, and a single intermediate sprint point, there were few points to be gained today. Most of the teams bided their time until the final few kilometers, when the sprinters moved to the forefront and jousted for the win. In the end, it was André Greipel who claimed a big win, edging out a group that included Mark Renshaw and Peter Sagan.

As expected, there was no changes in the overall standings for any of various Tour jerseys. Italian rider Vincenzo Nibali continues to wear Yellow, while Sagan remains in Green and White as the Tour’s top sprinter and best young rider respectively. Cyril Lemoine keeps the Polka Dot Jersey of the King of the Mountains as well, and that might not change until Saturday, when the first real climbing stage appears.

It was clear throughout today’s stage that the riders were just hoping to avoid crashes, and cautiously make their way to the finish. Considering the carnage that we saw yesterday, that is not too surprising. Tomorrow they’ll face a longer, tougher route that covers 234.5 km (145.7 miles) between Épernay and Nancy. The profile for the stage features a bit more altitude, although nothing to be too concerned about, and some steeper climbs near the finish. It is a day fit for a rider like Peter Sagan, who can handle the climbs a bit better than some of the other sprinters, and is strong enough to survive in a breakaway. We’ll have to wait to see who will take charge of the ride, but it could be an interesting day for more aggressive riders. Rains are expected to continue however, which could put a damper on things once again.

Saturday will provide the first taste of the mountains, with a slow and steady climb throughout the day, culminating with Two Category 2 climbs, and a Cat 3 finish. It won’t be enough to shake the GC contenders apart, but it should send more than a few of the riders in the top 10 down the leaderboard, and out of contention.

Kraig Becker