According to some sports writers, analysts, and excited fans, the “real” beginning of this year’s Tour is Thursday. Yep, stage 6 is where it all starts.
Despite four days of racing, the cycling gods have yet to commence the merciless and vigorous sorting of the victims contenders that invariably occurs on the initial mountain stage. I think they’ve been unnecessarily cruel this year, allowing the peloton (and us) to fall into a comfortable complacency: a place of rolling, green hills, ancient castles, and not too much hard work. Sure, we get a few thrilling minutes at the finish, but we haven’t had to pay a lot for it.
Thursday we will pay.
If you take a closer look, you’ll see that the finish line lies at the tippy-top of one of cycling’s most iconic climbs: the Planche des Belle Filles – a route that rises to a 24% gradient in some parts.
What this Means for the Race
Stage 6 will act as a metaphoric thresher, separating those riders who stand a chance to win the overall yellow jersey from the – ahem – chaff, so to speak. Overzealous climbers will be punished for exerting themselves too early in the day, finding their gas tanks empty as they reach the start of the final ascent. Others may just have a bad day. A few, however, will be blessed by the holy trinity of Grand Tour cycling: fresh legs, eager teammates, and a day free of errant obstacles (like the umbrella that flew into the peloton on stage 5.) Video from LeTour.com.
Who knows what the GC standings will look like at the end of the day? But it’s sure to be an exciting one for us spectators!
What to Sip While You Watch
Despite the dramatic change in terrain, we’re not all that far from where we were on stage 5, which means Alsace wine for another day. No complaints here!
There are so many lovely wines to choose from, and they are widely available. Why not pick up a bottle or two, invite a few friends over for a viewing party, and snack on a platter of charcuterie and cheese as you cheer on your favorite riders?
I’ll be back tomorrow with a recap of who’s still in contention, where the race heads for stage 7, and some new recommendations on what to sip while you’re making sense of it all.
Vive le Tour!