On paper, the sixth stage of the Tour de France was a straight forward 194km jaunt from Arras to Reims that was bound to finish in a bunch sprint finish. While Andre Greipel sprinted to victory for his sixth career Tour stage, FDJ were left wondering were it all went wrong as Thibaut Pinot was caught out in the wind and conceded 59 seconds to his GC rivals while Arnaud Démare crashed for the second day in a row and was unable to contest the sprint for the stage win.
"Everything happened when we passed a village 15km from the finish," said Arthur Vichot who finished in the same group with Pinot. "We were a bit too far back. As we exited the town, there was a big acceleration and we had not positioned us in time. And when the sprint teams went full gas, it was too late."
The first split occurred in the peloton when Omega Pharma-Quick Step put the hammer down right by the Chemin des Dames ridge - scene of three World War One battles - but it was a second split in the peloton that caused the most damage a few kilometers later.
"Unfortunately we lost a minute," Vichot said. "We were unable to chase down like we wanted. We did not have enough strength to bridge the gap. When the sprinters teams started organising, it was hard to make up for lost time. Yesterday we limited the damage with Thibaut, today we lost time. I hope it won't be too consequential for the future."
After the stage, FDJ's team manager Marc Madiot said that the team was "not good today" and his two protected riders echoed his words.
"One minute is not the end of the world, but it's a minute lost in a stupid way. Now we must take it back," said Pinot who is now 21st overall, 3:24 minutes down on Vincenzo Nibali.
While Démare was feeling the pain of numerous crashes, his thoughts were of Pinot and his GC hopes rather than his own missed opportunity in the sprint finish.
"I crashed at the mid point with William Bonnet," said Démare who crossed the line almost five minutes after Greipel. "The first part of the Tour de France has been a bit hard even though I was third in Lille. When I got up, I felt broken everywhere and I ran out of energy when the peloton accelerated. Okay, okay, I'm not badly affect and the main thing is not me but Thibaut...
"I really don't have any luck for the moment. It's more important for Thibaut than for me. I crashed and I'm a little bit broken all over."
This is Démare's first participation in the Tour and the racing so far has been harder than any previous race he has contested.
"It's a shame [to crash again]," he said. "It's obviously not easy. For the time being, cycling has always been good to me. In the last six days it's been more difficult. My third place [on stage 4] was a little light in the gloom in the last few days."