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.
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.
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."
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