Tour de France (st. 6)
Telefónica-backed squad pushes hard from afar as Mikel Landa attacks into final climb, a move frustrated by GFC and the favourites’ final moves. Teuns (TBM) wins stage six; Ciccone (TFS) in yellow.
The big mountains loomed in the 2019 Tour de France, and the most consistent, combative Movistar Team showed up. The Telefónica-backed squad went on the offensive through the final third of a very tough stage six -160km; seven rated climbs en route to the ski station of La Planche des Belles Filles-, looking to support their two main riders -Mikel Landa and Nairo Quintana- with a strong all-around performance.
Carlos Verona lit up the final slopes of the Ballon d’Alsace (Cat-1), 50km from the finish, and picked up the pace into a GC group trailing by eight minutes against the early break -from which Teuns (TBM) surged to victory as Ciccone (TFS) took yellow by few seconds-. The turns by Oliveira and Erviti; the strong pacing from Andrey Amador and Marc Soler; and an exceptional Alejandro Valverde, pushing hard and keeping the group in check with his expert vision, all anticipated a move from Landa with 4km remaining.
The Basque’s acceleration, which went up to 20″ ahead of the other race contenders, was frustrated by the pace-making from David Gaudu (GFC), just before the final gravel section, and the favourites’ moves, inside the last kilometer’s tough slopes. It was ultimately short margins into a group led home by Thomas (INS), where Quintana and Landa finished together. Friday will mark the return to sprinter affairs, with a flat finish in Chalon-sur-Saône (230km).
Nairo Quintana: “We did a nice job as a team and we sort of fulfilled our goal, which was also not losing time. These finishes are quite hard for us. We’re pure climbers, yet this climb is really steep and more suited to other kind of finishers. The first mountain stage is always difficult to tackle, you need your legs to adapt themselves to the new pace and gearing. Our rivals were still really fresh and that made it difficult to open any significant gaps. We’ll have to keep trying in the next few days.”
Mikel Landa: “It was the first mountain stage, I had good legs and wanted to confirm those feelings, see if our rivals would like to pick up the pace, too – yet in such a finish, with those tough final slopes, everyone is always keeping some energy for the end and it was also tough to open real gaps. The feeling after the stage is good: even if Thomas put a couple of seconds on us, I’m right where I wanted to be at this point of the race, and I think we can tackle the next mountain stages with good hopes.”
Cover picture (c): BettiniPhoto