UAE Team Emirates’ Vegard Stake Laengen put up a thrilling attacking display during stage six of the Tour to win the award for the most aggressive rider of the day and will go into stage seven wearing the red numbered bib.
A breakaway specialist, the Norwegian – who is competing in his first Tour de France – formed part of the three-man breakaway group that went on to head the race for over 210km. The group were eventually caught just 3km from the finish.
The riders fought with temperatures of over 30 degrees throughout the stage, which finished in the French town of Troyes, with Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) producing a sensational sprint finish to win his second stage of the Tour.
Speaking after the stage Vegard Stake Laengen, who was the largest man in the three rider breakaway group, said: “It was a hard stage, almost totally flat. It was hard to believe that the breakaway should arrive to the finish. Hopefully later in the Tour I will try on stages with more climbs. I’m taking more wind than the others, but I have a good position on my Colnago bike and I had good legs, so it was OK today.”
Stage seven is again suited to the sprinters, with just one categorized climb on the 213.5km course. The peloton will leave Troyes where the race will likely see a breakaway heading to Nuits-St-Georges. However, the breakaway group will expect to be drawn back in during what is anticipated to be a hard fought 50km sprint finish.
UAE Team Emirates’ Louis Meintjes put in a strong display amongst the climbers during stage five of the Tour de France, crossing the finish line in 11th place, only to be denied a top 10 finish by Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), who had started the day wearing the yellow jersey.
Riders were tasked with a brutal up-hill climb to end stage five – the first summit finish of the Tour. Fabio Aru (Astana Pro Team) rode to a clear victory, having made a break from the front pack with less than 3km to go.
Chris Froome remains at the summit of the General Classification while Meintjes moves up 100 places to 13th.
Speaking after the stage, Meintjes said: “It was really fast right from the start, they let a strong breakaway go but they kept the gap small so all day was fast and nervous. The last 2km was really fast and the guys that had legs left on the finish. It was almost like a sprint finish with a really steep final. I was just a little bit empty when I arrived there.”
Riders will head in to stage six having an understanding of how the Tour is starting to play out. The 216km flat between Vesoul and Troyes will give sprinters ample opportunities to pull back crucial seconds after the previous stage’s summit finish.
However, the terrain may cause some riders issues and a series of sharp corners, curves and roundabouts leading to the finish-line could make for a thrilling end to the stage.
Fabio Aru emulated compatriot Vincenzo Nibali in winning the fifth stage of the Tour de France on Wednesday as reigning champion Chris Froome took over the race lead.
Italian Aru won the 160.5km stage that finished on the La Planche des Belles Filles climb, where Nibali won three years ago before going on to claim Tour victory.
Froome came home third behind Ireland’s Dan Martin in second, and took over the yellow jersey from Sky team-mate Geraint Thomas.
Aru launced his attack with 2.4km left and finished 16 seconds clear of Martin. With a 10-second time bonus on the line, he moved up to third overall, at just 14 seconds behind Froome.
But more importantly, the 2015 Vuelta a Espana winner made a statement that he is a genuine challenger to end Froome’s Tour reign.
Briton Froome came home 20 seconds behind the winner, with Australia’s Richie Porte just behind him, but Colombian Nairo Quintana struggled and lost 14 seconds to Froome.
Last year’s runner up, Romain Bardet came home fifth at 24sec behind Aru, to now sit seventh overall at 47sec.
Thomas, who started the day 12 seconds clear, dropped to second at 12sec behind his team leader.
But at the end of the first mountain summit finish of this year’s race, the overall standings took on a familiar look as the overall contenders flexed their muscles for the first time.
The top 10 are now separated by one minute with all the big guns in there, including two-time former winner Alberto Contador, now eighth at 52sec.
Porte moved up to fifth at 39sec, with Quintana ninth at 54sec.
UAE Team Emirates rider Louis Meintjes finished 11th.