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Tour de France 2010: Stage 6

Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of today's sixth stage of the Tour de France from Montargis to Gueugnon. At 227.5km it is the longest stage in this year's race. It's going to be a long day in the saddle.

After Mark Cavendish's victory on Thursday, the sprinters and their teams are likely to dominate the action again today. However the mountains are looming and so the peloton may want to let a break go away and have an easy day.

0km remaining from 227km

And they're off!

After a 7km neutralised section, the stage begins. That means the riders face a total of 230km today. They were woken by thunder storms and heavy rain this morning but the weather has now dried up. Fortunately it is much cooler than yesterday's 35C.

We've already got the first breakway of the day. Mathieu Perget (Caisse d’Epargne) was the first to jump away and he was joined by Germany’s Sebastian Lang (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Spain’s Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskaltel-Euskadi).

222km remaining from 227km

The peloton has the let the trio go clear and they already have a two minute lead.

Now that the storms have passed, the weather is much better for the riders but it is windy out on the road. It will be tough for the three breakaways out there. 

217km remaining from 227km

The gap is up to three minutes.

Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is the best placed rider of the break. However he has some work to do before coming virtual race leader. He started the stage in 102nd place, 8:07 behind Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank).

209km remaining from 227km

The break is still surging ahead of the peloton. The gap is now five minutes.

First crash of the stage. Inaki Isasi Flores (Euskaltel-Euskadi) has gone down. He is okay and chasing to get back to the peloton.

203km remaining from 227km

The break is gaining more and more of an advantage. The gap is up to 7:00.

The break has a good chance of opening a big margin as the teams behind hesitate about taking up the chase. Peloton protocol means that the race leader's team should control the breakaway for at least the first half of the stage. However yellow jersey wearer Fabian Cancellara has made it clear that an extra day is not a huge priority, as the team begins to think to the mountains and protecting Andy Schleck.

HTC-Columbia has now put four riders on the front but it will probably be up to the teams chasing the green points jersey  and so especially the Cervelo TestTeam, that will also have to do the work today.

The riders covered the first hour at a steady but certainly not slow 42.3km.

At the start of stage six in Montargis, Cyclingnews Editor Daniel Benson spoke to HTC-Columbia sport director Rolf Aldag about Mark Cavendish’s win yesterday and the tactics for today.

“For sure it’s a more relaxing mood now. We always believed, but it takes a lot of pressure off now that we have our first win. It makes it easier to decide on tactics now too.”

Asked if today would come down to a sprint, Aldag said, “There’s a chance today but it’s 227 kilometres and we need some support and we can't do it on our own. There’s always a chance that Saxo won’t defend the yellow jersey and want to get rid of it. We don’t know what the others will do and we’ll help control the race if there’s a small group ahead.

“It’s hard to work less than Garmin and Cervelo did in the last few days so we hope for better.”
 

180km remaining from 227km

Sebastian Lang (Omega Pharma-Lotto) has won the first sprint in Saint Fargeau after 47km. Some of you may remember that a certain Mark Cavendish won here last year.

Garmin’s Jonathan Vaughters also gave his take on today’s stage and how it might play out. “I’d bet on a break today but it’s really up to Columbia. Saxo have had yellow for the last few days and they’ll ride a little bit, but they’re not going to do it on their own. Right now we don’t have a sprinter that can win, as Tyler isn’t at 100 per cent and I can’t burn through all my guys, and Tyler doesn’t want us to do that either. There will come a day when Tyler will be back and we’ll want to chase but not yet.”

172km remaining from 227km

The trio of Mathieu Perget (Caisse d’Epargne), Sebastian Lang (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskaltel-Euskadi) are still working hard on building their advantage. Like squirrals saving nuts for the winter, they've gathered 8:00 on the peloton so far. They will need all of that and some more for later.

152km remaining from 227km

The race has entered the hiller section of the stage now and the lead of the trio has fallen slightly. From here onwards it is up and down until 20km from the finish. Now we will see who wants success more: the breakaway or the sprinters and their teams.

At the start Daniel Benson spotted Lance Armstrong’s and Cadel Evans’s previous bodyguard Serge outside the Lotto team bus. Benson bravely approached and asked the 'muscles from Brussels' for a prediction on the top three in Paris. “Contador, Evans, Vandenbroek.”
 

Have you been entering our Easton-Cyclingnews Wheelset a Day Giveaway competition?

Michael Rudolph won a set of Easton EC90 Aero wheels for correctly answering our trivia question from stage 2. The question was: Who has the greatest number of Tour podiums? The answer was 8 each: Raymond Poulidor (Fra) and Lance Armstrong (USA).

Kirk Whitmer won a set of Easton EC90 Aero wheels for correctly answering our trivia question from Stage 3: The question was: Which country has the most stage wins (from all Tours)? The answer was: 655-France.

In case you're not yet familiar with the contest, Easton Cycling has teamed up with Cyclingnews to give you a chance at a major upgrade to your bike in celebration of the Tour de France. Each day, during our live Tour de France coverage we'll ask a trivia question. Answer correctly at our contest page to be entered into the draw for that day's prize.

The Easton-Cyclingnews Wheelset a Day GiveAway gives you 21 chances to try for a prize and you need to follow our live coverage for your shot.

Easton makes some of the most durable high-performance wheels in cycling. World Champion Cadel Evans and US National champion George Hincapie both ride for the Easton-sponsored BMC Racing Team.

And Easton has pulled the best of their line for our giveaway:
- EC90 Aero Wheelsets on flat stages
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- EC90 TT wheelsets on days when the riders use the time trial bikes.

Every day gives you a fresh chance to win a wheelset from Easton. At the end of the Tour one daily entrant will be randomly selected to win the Grand Prize; a set of Easton EC90 wheels right off Cadel Evans' race bike.
 

Nicholas Roche looked relaxed at the start, clearly happy with how the first week had gone for him. “I’m pretty happy with the first week. Today is going to be very long and hopefully the transition tomorrow with the first climbs will be fine. It’s going to be hard, though,” he told CN’s Daniel Benson.

“I was really nervous about the cobbles because I knew that I could go well and I think I had a good race and was there at the right time.”

“Any day can be a decisive day at the Tour but we saw that the climb to Mende can we hard and we saw that in Paris Nice this year. I’m getting a lot of support. Unfortunately the team isn’t the best for those first week stages and a lot of them are very nervous when it comes to fighting to be at the front but when we arrive on the terrain that’s a bit less dangerous and more mountainous they’ll be able to give me a hand.”
 

132km remaining from 227km

Mathieu Perget (Caisse d’Epargne) was first over the top of the category four Cote de La Chapelle-Saint-Andre climb. Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskaltel-Euskadi) was second and Sebastian Lang (Omega Pharma-Lotto) third. Their lead on the peloton is now 6:30

Nicholas Roche also said:

“Any day can be a decisive day at the Tour but we saw that the climb to Mende can we hard and we saw that in Paris Nice this year. I’m getting a lot of support. Unfortunately the team isn’t the best for those first week stages and a lot of them are very nervous when it comes to fighting to be at the front but when we arrive on the terrain that’s a bit less dangerous and more mountainous they’ll be able to give me a hand.”
 

For those of you playing our Easton-Cyclingnews Wheelset a Day Giveaway during the Tour de France, here is your trivia question for the day:

Australian cycling is on a high this year, especially with Cadel Evans wearing the world champion’s rainbow jersey. How many Australian riders have won Tour de France stages?

Enter your answer in our contest page here

Today's prize is an Easton EC90 Aero wheelset.

Click here for information about the prize.
 

We're just about half way through the stage now, and Susan Westemeyer has jumped in for a short time.

Where is the sun?  What a dismal looking day.

Fabian Cancellara zips past in his yellow jersey.  There has been some talk that the team won't try to defend his lead today.  He seems unlikely to hang on to it in the coming mountain stages anyway.

This is interesting.  Saxo Bank has a rider leading the field, followed by one HTC-Columbia, followed by on AG2R, followed by what looks like all of Astana.

Some fan thought it would be a good idea to kneel in the middle of the road as the leaders go by.  He'd better not try that when the peloton comes to this spot.

The leaders passed through the feed zone, and that has dropped the gap slightly, to 5:58

Carlos Sastre signed on with his Cervelo teammates but had a quick word with Cyclingnews. “I look forward to every day. Today will be hard with the rain, but a lot can happen before the mountains. I don’t know how good my form is right now but it’s not bad. Well see in a few days.”

 

Cancellara is back iat the time car and the mechanic hangs out the window to monkey with something on his bike.

My goodness, did he just do a wheelie?

The peloton has obviously hit the feed zone.  We see World Champion Cadel Evans happily chewing away, and another rider enjoys a nice cold Coca-Cola.

Jens Voigt was one of the last riders to sign on. Benson asked how the team would approach today’s stage. “If they listened to me we’d go flat out and then see how far we could go. They don’t want to listen to me. I suggest it every now and then though.

“We’ll try and control things a bit at the start and not let a group of ten or fifteen guys go and hopefully receive some help from the sprinter teams so that we don’t have to ride all day killing ourselves.

“We’ve talked about different scenarios, best and worst and we might have to let it go. If we were just a sprinters team then we’d want to keep it as long as possible, but we need riders fresh and ready before the mountains so we need to balance it between spending energy or saving it. Both are important.”
 

Astana's Jesus Hernandez is at the race doctor's car,a nd gets some salve rubbed into his left knee.

We now see the winner of yesterday's stage.  Will today be another mass sprint,and will Cavendish be able to do it again?  Or will Petacchi or Ciolek or Hushovd or........?

A handful of riders, including most of Lampre plus Marcus Burghardt of BMC, have just made their way up through the team cars to the peloton.  Don't know why they had all fallen back.

The Euskaltel car pulls up for a short visit with Perez in the lead group.

101km remaining from 227km

The peloton has picked up its speed and the gap is quite clearly coming down.   It is now 5:19.

There is now also a pretty strong tailwind.

98km remaining from 227km

The sun has come out and is melting the gap.  It is now down to 5:07.

Maxime Bouet has just gotten a new tyre.

91km remaining from 227km

WE are starting to feel like a broken record here  The gap has fallen again, and is now under five minutes.

Whee!  An AStana rider does a striptease on the bike!

No, he's just taking off his undershirt because it is too hot.  It is Andrey Grivko, by the way.

How hot is it?  It is so hot that we just saw a flock of cows standing in a pond.  No kidding.

The temperatures were nice this morning at the start, but have now shot up to over 30° Celsius.  That is why we have seen Grivko, among others, take off the undershirt, and why Brett Lancaster of Cervelo just picked up some ice bags from the team car and stuffed them inside his jersey.  And why we see so many people falling back to load up on water bottles.

We are in the French Chateaux country here, and are now passing another lovely one.

Maxime Monfrot of HTC-Columbia pulls the peloton along.  Hope the HTC boys don't overheat today.  Or anyone else, of course.

Two HTC-Columbia riders lead the pelotonl, followed by all eight Saxo Bank riders.

79km remaining from 227km

"Seppel" Lang leads the trio of escapees.

Contador jokes with one of the motorcycle drivers.

Right behind Astana is RadioShack, of course.  Lance Armstrong and Andreas Klöden have a little chat.

73km remaining from 227km

Down goes the gap again.  It is now at 3:47.

Luis Leon Sanchez is the next to take off his undershirt.  Quite a show we are having today!

And with that the live report goes back to Stephen Farrand, who wil bring you all to the finish line.

122km remaining from 227km

Thanks Susan.

Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) is back in the team cars but is quickly moving to the peloton with help from a teammate.

The stage has been underway for four hours now and the average speed is 39.2km/h. That will surely increase in the finale. It is windy out there and the wind is likely to blow from the side and cause echelons and possible splits.

Johannes Fröhlinger of the Milram team was relaxed at the start this morning in Montargis, as his team leader Gerald Ciolek had a good second placing in yesterday's bunch sprint, which took a bit of pressure off the German team while at the same time encouraging the squad to do better.

"Today is a nasty day, it's up and down all the time, and with the weather being so changing it could get really bad. Plus it's the longest day of this Tour... But we're prepared. Our lead-out train for gerald is starting to work a bit better. It's the first time we race together in this line-up, so we still need to adjust to one another. But it was great to get Gerald second yesterday.

"Personally, I hope to make a breakaway at some point as I feel good. Maybe pick it up from where I left it last year....”

Fröhlinger got third in the stage to Arcalis last year at the Tour.
 

Fabian Cancellara is also moving back up from the team cars. He's easy to spot in the yellow jersey and because he's got his race number (13) upside down. He does that to ward off bad luck. 

59km remaining from 227km

The peloton cuts through a forest like an arrow, with a classic helicopter shot.

Marcus Burghardt (BMC) has stopped for a rear wheel change.

The mechanic did not panic and nor did the big German. He was quickly away again and chasing to back to the bunch.

55km remaining from 227km

The gap between the break and the peloton is slowly melting under the sun. It is down to 2:25 now.

With Mark Cavendish's stage win yesterday, the U.K. is now tied with the U.S. in terms of most stage wins by an English speaking country at 35. Out of all nations, they are tied for 9th behind:
France 683 wins
Belgium 449
Italy 243
Netherlands 152
Spain 114
Luxembourg 65
Germany 57
Switzerland 54
U.S. and U.K. 35
 

Watching the Tour de France from the roadside is a huge day out and there is always a party atmosphere. We've just seen some people dressed as clowns in Saint-Honore-les-Bains.

Of course HTC-Columbia is not clowning about on the front of the bunch. They have four riders working hard, leading the chase.

48km remaining from 227km

As we enter the final 50km, the gap to the break falls below 2:00. The trio up front seems to be slowing on the Cat 4 climb they are tackling now.

Mathieu Perget (Caisse d’Epargne) again leads over the climb. He has a total of nine points now but even if he wins the last climb, he will not take the polka-dot jersey from Jérôme Pineau (Quick Step).

The peloton is also the 3.6km long Cotes des Montarons and enjoying the cooling breeze on the descent.

Bert Grabsch and Maxime Monfort are again doing the work for HTC-Columbia. Just like everyone else in the team, they deserve a chunk of the glory if Mark Cavendish goes on to win.

Liquigas-Doimo are lined out behind HTC-Columbia. They want to keep Ivan Basso out of trouble in the finale. They are perhaps worried about possible side winds too.

We get a close up of Lance Armstrong (RadioShack). He looks relaxed again today. Like all the overall contenders, he is waiting for the mountain stages. The first ones comes tomorrow with the finish at the Station des Rousses in the Jura mountains.  The final climb is 14km long and rises at an average of 5%.

Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam) has some work done on his brakes. The Green jersey doesn't need his blocks rubbing when he's sprinting for stage victory and precious points.

35km remaining from 227km

HTC-Columbia are letting the breakaway trio hang out front. The gap is coming down very gradually as they avoid bringing the race back together. That would only spark more attacks and so make it more difficult to control.

The race will soon change direction, with a tailwind or even a slightly sidewind expected. Get ready for some action.

30km remaining from 227km

Chute!

Nothing serious. Just a bit of wheel touching, with Lars Boom one of the riders invovled.

Yukiya Arashiro (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) also chasing back on.  Christophe Kern (Cofidis) was also involved and needed a rear wheel change.

25km remaining from 227km

Lots of riders back amongst the team cars.  The 20 km marker is approaching, so everyone wants to load up on water bottles.

The HTC-Columbia-led peloton continues to grind down the gap, which is now under one minute.   And dropping rapidly.

AG2R's Champion juimpst out of the peloton, hoping to catch a few mountain points.  The leading trio isn't at the top yet, though.

24km remaining from 227km

Chamkpion has nearly caught the three leader, and now a BBox rider takes off out of the field, too.

We now have a leading quartet with a  34 second lead.  The BBox rider is Charteau, but he hasn't yet caught them.

Perget takes off to get the maximal number of mountain points, with Lang second and Champion third.

Perget has stayed in the lead, and has a nice gap.  Will he try to solo in to the finish?

18km remaining from 227km

Mathieu Perget (Caisse d’Epargne) doesn't want to be caught just yet. But neither do the others.

The five are now together on the rolling roads but the peloton can see them.

16km remaining from 227km

Champion is giving a good go as the peloton lets them hang off the front.

Lampre and Garmin-Transitions are also on the front of the peloton.

Dimitri Champion (Ag2r-La mondiale) Anthony Charteau (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) are working hard at the front of the five-rider move. But the bunch is coming up.

The race switched through a small village but is now back on the main road and heading for Gueugnon. The speed is rising faster than a French souffle.

10km remaining from 227km

As the race passes under the 10km banner, the break is caught and the five sit up.

9km remaining from 227km

Lance Armstrong's RadioShack team hit the front but now Saxo Bank,Lampre and Liquigas in control.

 

The sprinters' teams are playing poker. Who will lead it out today? And from when?

8km remaining from 227km

Astana are working to keep Contador out of trouble too. All th big team leaders are near the front. They are scared of the finale and possible crashes.

7km remaining from 227km

It is a strong side wind from the left and that is why the team leaders are worried.

6km remaining from 227km

The riders are tightly packed all across the road. Cervelo TestTeam and Lampre now moving up to the front.

Here come Garmin but the slightly rolling roads is making hard work for anyone to lead the peloton for more than a few seconds.

5km remaining from 227km

Lampre looked determined to control things too. This is going to be another nervous and aggressive sprint.

3km remaining from 227km

HTC-Columbia now place five riders on the front, with Lampre getting in the mix too, as Hondo and Petacchi get on Cavendish's wheel.

It's Tony Martin ahead of Bernie Eisel for HTC. There's some pushing and fighting for position behind them.

Team Sky join the mix, with Thomas looking after Eddy Boasson Hagen

The bunch swings right and into the last kilometre. Here we go. Garmin leading it out.

Garmin leading it out. But Renshaw is perfect again and gives Cavendish a perfect lead out.

Cav hits the front and opens up yet again. Nobody can match him. Petacchi and Farrar try but Cavendish wins his second consecutive stage. 

Cavendish takes it ahead of Farrar and Petacchi. Robbie McEwen (Katusha) was fourth and Gerald Ciolek (Milram) fifth.

Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) keeps the overall race lead and the yellow jersey.

There was almost a crash in the final corner with 650m to go, as riders collided before the final right hand corner. But then Renshaw again dragged Cavendish out of the pack and set him up perfectly. Cavendish launched at just the right time and Farrar was unable to follow and lost his slipstream.

It was Cavendish's 12th Tour de France stage win.

Here is the provisional top ten on the stage and overall.

1 Mark Cavendish (Gbr) Team HTC - Columbia 5:37:42
2 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - Transitions
3 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
4 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Team Katusha
5 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Milram
6 Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
7 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
8 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling Team
9 Robert Hunter (RSA) Garmin - Transitions
10 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team

That's all folks!

Cavendish has hugged all his teammates and the results are in.

Time for a bike ride perhaps?

By the time you get back, there will be full results, a full report, the best news stories and interviews from our crew at the finish, and a great photo gallery. All here on Cyclingnews.

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