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As it happened: Day of echelon tension ends with tight bunch sprint


Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage 6 of the 2024 Tour de France. Tadej Pogačar holds the yellow jersey, but most headlines are for Mark Cavendish this morning after he broke the record he shared with Eddy Merckx and won his 35th Tour stage in Saint-Vulbas yesterday. Stephen Farrand was on the scene for us and sends this account.

When Cavendish walked back his retirement decision last summer, the prospect of a record-breaking 35th stage win seemed the obvious draw, even if lead-out man Michael Mørkøv suggested to Cyclingnews earlier this year that surpassing Eddy Merckx's mark was more of an excuse to keep racing than a burning goal in itself. Certainly, Cavendish has no intention of turning the rest of this Tour into a lap of honour now that feat has been achieved. Today's finale in Dijon offers another opportunity. "First and foremost, I'll try and enjoy it and secondly we'll try and be successful again because that's fundamentally our job," Cavendish said. "I love this race, I always have loved this race. I love this race when I ride, I love this race when I watch it, and I'll always give it 100%." Dani Ostanek has more here.

Coach Vasilis Anastopoulos was a key figure in Cavendish's surprising renaissance at QuickStep in 2021 and he has been essential to the Manxman's success again here after joining Astana-Qazaqstan's staff during the off-season. He introduced spells of altitude training to Cavendish's preparation this year, and the sprinter also spent sustained spells at Anastopoulos' home in Greece in the build-up to the Tour. Anastopoulos was confident in Cavendish's Tour prospects after poring over his training files from the week after the Tour de Suisse. "The data I had told me was capable of doing that,” he said. “He came back to Greece immediately after the Tour de Suisse, and we did sprint work for the whole week because of all the climbs he had done before.” Read the full story here.

Mads Pedersen crashed in the finishing straight yesterday, but Lidl-Trek have confirmed that the Dane is fit enough to start today's stage.

Today's run from Mâcon to Dijon is a flat one, with just a single category 4 climb - the early Col du Bois Clair - on the agenda. Another bunch sprint would appear to be inevitable. The peloton rolls out at 13.35 CET, with the race scheduled to hit kilometre zero at 13.50.  

General classification after stage 5

Eddy Merckx has paid his own tribute to Mark Cavendish for claiming sole ownership of the record for Tour stage wins. “Congratulations to Mark Cavendish on this historic achievement! Such a nice guy to break my record,” Merckx said in a post on Instagram. James Moultrie has more here.

The roll-out is just 25 minutes away, and there will have been a lot of discussion on the team buses in Mâcon about this stage's potential for echelons. Those in the know suggest the opening part of the stage and the last 45km are most exposed to crosswinds. Vigilance will be key.

MACON FRANCE JULY 04 Biniam Girmay of Eritrea and Team Intermarche Wanty Green Sprint Jersey prior to the 111th Tour de France 2024 Stage 6 a 1635km stage from Macon to Dijon UCIWT on July 04 2024 in Macon France Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

Biniam Girmay lines up in the green jersey, having moved to the top of the classification yesterday. (Image credit: Getty Images)

The peloton has rolled away from the start in Mâcon and is navigating the neutralised zone. 

It's 22°C at the start in Mâcon, where the sun has poked through the clouds. The wind is little more than a breeze for now, at 16kph, and so any echelons, if they come, will surely be for the final hour, when the wind is forecast to pick up. Yesterday, like on stage 3 to Turin, there was a very low-key start to proceedings - although the early category 4 climb and the intermediate sprint in Cormatin after 31km might make for a more intense opening today.



The peloton is rolling though the light rain shower, still travelling at a decent rate of knots. Unlike the tentative opening to the previous sprint stages, there's a tension in the air here, thanks largely to the early climb and the early intermediate sprint. 

MACON FRANCE JULY 04 LR Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia and UAE Team Emirates Yellow Leader Jersey Biniam Girmay of Eritrea and Team Intermarche Wanty Green Sprint Jersey and Mark Cavendish of The United Kingdom and Astana Qazaqstan Team prior to the 111th Tour de France 2024 Stage 6 a 1635km stage from Macon to Dijon UCIWT on July 04 2024 in Macon France Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

Tadej Pogacar, Biniami Girmay and Mark Cavendish at the start in Macon (Image credit: Getty Images)



A polka-dotted Abrahamsen clips off the front of the  bunch with 700m of the climb remaining in search of the solitary mountains point at the summit, though he's being hunted by Axel Zingle (Cofidis) .


Zingle presses on over the other side. Abrahamsen might have been expected to sit up after the climb, but the Norwegian opts to come through and give Zingle a few turns. The two escapees have half a minute in hand on the bunch.

Abrahamsen certainly isn't hanging around. After losing the green jersey to Biniam Girmay yesterday, the Norwegian seems to be keen to pick up maximum points at the intermediate sprint after 30km. He presses on the pace with Zingle, and the gap is stretching out.


Zingle was involved in a notable incident in yesterday's finale - or perhaps more accurately, he helped to limit the impact of an incident. When Mads Pedersen crashed in the finishing straight, Zingle had the presence of mind and reflexes to bunnyhop the fallen Dane rather than ride into him, and that act might well have prevented bringing down more riders. Simone Giuliani has more here.


The intermediate sprint in Cormatin is just over 10km away, and there will be an injection of pace from the bunch as it draws closer. Meanwhile, the rain has abated, the sun has re-emerged and the road beneath their wheels is dry.

Abrahamsen and Zingle continue to shoot the breeze out in front, and the peloton is drawing inexorably closer. 45 seconds the gap.




Girmay's points classification lead is up to ten points over Pedersen thanks to his second place in that intermediate sprint.

Intermediate sprint - result


A Welsh flag fluttering on the roadside confirms the crosswind at this point. Delegations from Visma, UAE and Ineos are all massed towards the front, though they appear to be positioned for safety rather than with the express intention of trying to force an echelon.


Today marks the 25th anniversary of Lance Armstrong's first day in the yellow jersey on the 1999 Tour de France, the first of seven straight wins that would later be stricken from the record books when he was finally sanctioned in 2012. Armstrong and manager Johan Bruyneel were given lifetime bans, but they haven't gone away - nor, indeed, have many of Armstrong's 1999 teammates, some of whom remain prominent figures in cycling today. Patrick Fletcher has pieced the story of what everybody on the 1999 US Postal team is doing now, and you can read his feature here






Two problems. They launched immediately before the race swung into a tree-lined section and, in truth, everybody was ready for a move like that. The status quo remains, with a nervous peloton still tightly bunched.







Ineo are also riding on the front, which clearly means Carlos Rodriguez is in this front group, which has 20 seconds on the rest of the peloton and 1:18 on Cavendish.



At the back of the race, meanwhile, Cavendish is mouthing off at the television motorbike, seemingly unhappy at the attention being paid to his attempt to chase back on. 


But while the bomb has been diffused, the tension remains. There are still almost 70km on exposed roads to go. It would be a surprise if there aren't further splits on the road to Dijon. UAE surely can't make the same mistake again.


Felix Gall (Decathlon-AG2R) has suffered a mechanical problem, and Cavendish sweeps past the Austrian as he barrels back towards the bunch.

Primoz Roglic hasn't had the sharpest opening to this Tour, but his Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe squad has been excellently placed here and they might sense this is an opportunity to claw back some of the time spilled so far. 

Cavendish makes it back to the bunch, but before he rejoins the fray, he stops to have a word with the commissaires before tucking in behind their car.




A gentle admonishment was offered to the UAE Team Emirates riders after the race came back together. "Guys be careful, Tadej cannot remain alone in a situation like this," Andrej Hauptman says in a grab from race radio provided by the host broadcaster.


A lull in intensity sees another bike change for Mark Cavendish, who is presumably switching back to his original machine. He has Yevgeniy Fedorov and a television motorbike for company as he chases back on. You can imagine which one he's happier to see.

Visma-Lease a Bike DS Grischa Niermann offers some praise for his team over the radio during this moment of relative calm. "We're by far the best team in the hectic," he says. It's never nice to brag, but on the evidence so far, he's probably right. 


Mikel Landa (Soudal-QuickStep), currently 7th overall, suffers a puncture. Tom Steels emerges from the team car to push the Basque on his way again, and it looks as though he will rejoin the fray without undue distress.




There's a crash at the rear of the peloton just before that turn, just as the road narrowed. Jonas Abrahamsen and Fred Wright are among the riders to go down. Alberto Bettiol was also caught up in the incident, but everybody seems to be back on their bikes and chasing back on.


Jonas Abrahamsen, a faller in that crash, has also latched back on, and the gruppo is more or less compatto. The exposed roads, however, leave open the possibility of further splits between here and Dijon.











There is, inevitably, quite a litany of traffic islands and roundabouts on the run-in to Dijon, and it might be those accoutrements, rather than the wind, that provoke a split during this frantic finale.


UAE Team Emirates team's Slovenian rider Tadej Pogacar wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey (C) cycles with the pack of riders (peloton) during the 6th stage of the 111th edition of the Tour de France cycling race, 163,5 km between Macon and Dijon, on July 4, 2024. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

Positioning has been nine-tenths of the law on the road to Dijon. (Image credit: Getty Images)











Visma-Lease a Bike are also prominent in numbers for Jonas Vingegaard, and they will stay here until at least the 4km to go mark.


Pogacar looks comfortable as he gets back into position near the front. Girmay, who had been a long way back a couple of kilometres ago is now tucked into fifth place in the peloton.


Now the sprinters' teams are in sole command. Decathlon, Lidl-Trek, Astana and Uno-X are all to the fore.


Phil Bauhaus also has plenty of Bahrain jerseys around him. Kristoff and Mads Pedersen are also posted towards the front.




A mammoth effort from Uno-X who lead into the final 500 metres, but here comes Mathieu van der Poel...

Van der Poel opens the sprint with a massive lead-out. He swings off with Phulipsen, Girmay, De Lie and Groenewegen in contention...

Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco-Alula) wins stage 6 of the Tour de France.

Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) was second ahead of Biniam Girmay (Intermarche-Wanty), with Fernando Gaviria (Movistar) fourth ahead of Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious) and Arnaud De Lie (Lotto Dstny).

Van der Poel led out the sprint, but perhaps Philipsen should have kicked sooner as caught De Lie and others were travelling faster than him by the time the world champion finally swung off. Groenewegen timed his effort well to sprint down the right-hand side of the road. Philipsen closed once he finally hit top speed, but he couldn't get back on terms with the Dutchman.  


DIJON FRANCE JULY 04 LR Jasper Philipsen of Belgium and Team Alpecin Deceuninck Wout Van Aert of Belgium and Team Visma Lease a Bike Fernando Gaviria of Colombia and Movistar Team Biniam Girmay of Eritrea and Team Intermarche Wanty Green Sprint Jersey Phil Bauhaus of Germany and Team Bahrain Victorious and Dylan Groenewegen of Netherlands and Team Jayco AlUla sprint at finish line to win the 111th Tour de France 2024 Stage 6 a 1635km stage from Macon to Dijon UCIWT on July 04 2024 in Dijon France Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

(Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Dylan Groenewegen on his win: "I’m really happy. The feeling is so amazing, especially in the red, white and blue jersey. Before I said it would be a beautiful picture but it was so close I couldn’t celebrate on the finish line. On the end, we grabbed it and the team worked so hard in the last days. Yesterday I was a bit disappointed about myself because the team did a really good job but today we nailed it again. In the last kilometres, we stayed calm. I don’t actually know what happened but I was first.

Tadej Pogacar finished safely in the main peloton to retain the yellow jersey ahead of tomorrow's time trial.

General classification after stage 6

Wout van Aert was 7th in that sprint, but he was well in contention until he was squeezed out on the right-hand barrier by Philipsen. There simply wasn't room there and Van Aert had to stall.

Astana were well positioned for much of the run-in, but Cavendish made no impact in the sprint, placing 20th. 

Tadej Pogačar warms down behind the podium aboard his time trial bike, as he did every day on the Giro d'Italia. Tomorrow brings the next moment of truth at this Tour, the 25.3km test from Nuits-Saint-Georges to Gevrey-Chambertin. On the basis of his Giro displays, Pogačar will see it as a chance to gain on Vingegaard. On the basis of his rainbow jersey, Remco Evenepoel will fancy his chances of stage victory and perhaps something more. Vingegaard will surely be in damage limitation mode, despite his stratospheric time trial on last year's Tour. And Primoz Roglic will be looking to re-ignite his Tour challenge after a subdued opening. 

Read James Moultrie's account of today's stage here, together with the full results and pictures from the windy road to Dijon.

There are reports reaching us that Jasper Philipsen has been declassified for blocking Wout van Aert in the sprint, which would putn Biniam Girmay in second place on the stage. 

Jasper Philipsen has been relegated for his deviation in the sprint. Biniam Girmay is promoted to second place on the stage, which will bolster his green jersey lead still further.

Revised results

Alpecin-Deceuninck manager Christoph Roodhooft has spoken on Philipsen’s relegation to 107th place: “We got a call from the UCI and heard the penalty. We also watched the sprint. It's very clear that the barrier is not straight ahead. And when Wout van Aert comes, he also holds back a bit. It all came together a bit. I don't think it's a manoeuvre that justifies it [disqualification] 100%. But there's something to be said for both sides.

Read more on Jasper Philipsen's relegation here.

Wout van Aert's full reaction to the incident is here.

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