Stage 6: Arras - Reims
Highest point: 194m
After our brief foray into Belgium and over the cobbles, the sprinters return to the fore, for possibly the final time before we hit the mountains.
However, this stage holds a special meaning outside of the racing alone. A century years since the beginning of World War 1, the race will be passing through the Somme along the Chemin des Dames, where the Second Battle of Aisne took place in 1917 as the race visits a number of key battle grounds.
The second half of this 194-kilometre stage is a lumpy affair, which could reward the brave. You can be certain that the sprinters’ teams will want this to come down to a bunch gallop in Reims. However, the small climbs and the twisting roads may help a small group of riders get away.
Anyone intending on making the most of today will have to factor in the wind. Much of this stage passes through wide expanses of countryside, giving potential for crosswinds.
Teams such as Belkin and Omega Pharma-QuickStep will favour these conditions and they used their experience to maximum reward in last year’s race. Along with Saxo-Tinkoff, they were able to distance the main contenders on stage 13. Mark Cavendish was the victor on that day.
Alex Sans Vega says... "After the stress on the cobbles, the bunch will likely decide to have an easier day. In the past, Reims was a good day for the sprinters. There will be a small break, the peloton will take it quiet and the sprinters' teams will control the race.
Alessandro Petacchi won the last time the Tour visited Reims, his sixth and final stage victory at the race. The first time the race visited the northern French city was in 1938, when Fabien Galateau beat Lucian le Guével in a sprint to the line. Petacchi is unlikely to be contesting for stage honours here, but he will be there to help guide his team-mate Mark Cavendish to victory.
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