SAN DIEGO, July 6, 2012 – Although he went down twice in crashes along the way, German cyclist Andre Greipel of Lotto-Belisol still had enough game to try and win his third stage of the Tour de France 2012. He would have been the first rider in the Tour to do it since Lance Armstrong.
But Slovakian sprinter Peter Sagan of Liquigas-Cannondale treated fans to a new victory salute as he won Stage 6 ahead of Greipel. The green sprinters’ jersey inspired his best impression of The Incredible Hulk with a victory yell to go with it. Greipel showed he’s tough but sat up when he knew he’d been beaten at the line. Following closely behind were Matthew Goss of Orica Greenedge, Kenny Van Hummel of Vacansoleil, and Juan Jose Huedo of SaxoBank.
Friday’s stage saw three crashes, the worst coming with about 15 miles left in the stage on a flat road. Among those going down hard was Canadian rider and Giro d’Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal of Garmin-Sharp. He finished with a nasty scrape to the hip, losing nearly 13 minutes and falling out of the top ten to 108th place. His Tour is effectively over. Other GC riders avoided injury but were tied up and delayed by the aftermath of the crash. Hopes to win the Tour are all but out of reach for contenders including Frank Schleck of Radio Shack-Nissan Trek who lost nearly two minutes, and Robert Gesink of Rabobank who lost three and a half minutes.
Four riders had to abandon the race, including American Tom Danielson who was already in dire shape.
Also falling behind on time but avoiding injury were sprinter Mark Cavendish and Evald Boassen-Hagen of SkyRacing, Thomas Voeckler of Europcar, and Johnny Hoogerland of Vaconsoleil, who went through a barbed wire fence in last year’s Tour after being sideswiped by a service care.
Once again, leading riders who stayed with their teams managed to escape today’s problems, including Fabian Cancellara of Radio Shack-Nissan, Cadel Evans of BMC, and Bradley Wiggins of Sky Racing. On the long flat stages, it’s tempting to cruise along conserving energy and strength for the mountain stages coming this weekend, but there is great risk involved. Top GC contenders must ride hard enough to stay out of trouble, and be fortunate to have teammates around them strong enough to lead the way to safety at the end of the day.
Fabian Cancellara has met his goal of keeping the yellow jersey as the Tour leader for a week after safely finishing Stage 6. It is his 28th day leading the Tour through his career. He’s in danger of losing it Saturday. Spartacus has it in him to climb, but it may depend on much energy he wants to conserve for the upcoming Olympic Games.
The overall leaders list has lost Ryder Hesjedal, but is otherwise unchanged:
1. Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) RadioShack-Nissan-Trek
2. Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain) Team Sky
3. Sylvain Chavanel (France) Omega-Pharma-QuickStep
4. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing
5. Denis Menchov (Russia) Katusha
6. Cadel Evans (Australia) BMC
7. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Liquigas-Cannondale
8. Peter Sagan (Slovakia) Liquigas-Cannondale
9. Andres Kloden (Germany) RadioShack-Nissan-Trek
10. Maxime Monfort (Belgium) RadioShack-Nissan-Trek
Reigning Tour champion Cadel Evans of BMC and Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky should emerge to show their climbing style on Stage 7 Saturday. This is where contenders can start gaining serious time on their GC rivals for the overall Tour. But sometimes riders will play cagey and not burst out of the pack just yet. The cat and mouse games in cycling can make it fun to watch and second-guess what the riders will do. Will they attack? Will they lay low?
It will be imperative for Frank Schleck to try and gain some time back on this weekend’s mountain stages if he is to be in contention at all for winning the Tour. Denis Menchov is a powerful climber and may take control, while American Tejay van Garderen can show he’s a contender now as well as in the future with a good showing.
Tejay van Garderen of BMC kept his white jersey as the best young rider. Michael Morkov of SaxoBank held on to his polka dot jersey as the “King of the Mountains.” Peter Sagan put a little more distance between himself and his rivals for the sprinter’s Hulk green jersey. American David Zabriskie led today’s four-man breakaway, and for a second day it almost worked. Zabriskie was caught up with just 400 meters left to go. His effort won the most aggressive rider jersey for the day. After the race, he said it had been “fun.” His perspective on the crashes, “No one died. It’s just a bike race.”
American Levi Leipheimer is now in 22nd place, 45 seconds. He could make a good showing on the mountain stages this weekend. Americans Chris Horner of Radio Shack-Nissan and George Hincapie of BMC stayed out of harm’s way and sit just a few minutes off the pace in 24th and 32nd place. Christian Vandevelde fell 15 minutes back today, but at least he’s still in the race. The Tour is now down to 190 riders and those numbers may drop even more overnight.
Saturday’s Stage 7 will show us who’s in it to win it. For fans who like climbs, this 123-mile stage from Tomblaine to La Planche des Belles Filles is your first stage with a long finishing climb at an average grade of 8.5%, with climbs at 11% and 13%. It might not sound like much, but try it on a road near you sometime. We will start to learn who are the contenders and who are the pretenders here.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Media Migraine in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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