MONT AIGOUAL, France: Alexey Lutsenko of Astana won stage six of the Tour de France on Thursday completing a long breakaway over two mountains in the magnificent Cevennes National Park.
Briton Adam Yates held on to the overall leader’s yellow jersey despite a dramatic late bid by Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe to snatch it back with a trademark kick to the finish that clawed back a few seconds.
“It went really well, with an escape with big riders we needed to control, but a good day for us,” Yates said.
Alaphilippe lost the yellow jersey to Yates on Wednesday when a careless late water-bottle pick-up cost him a 20 seconds time penalty, with the Mitchelton Scott rider admitting he wouldn’t have wanted to take the lead in that manner but would defend it with everything he had.
“Tomorrow should be easy,” said Yates when asked about Friday’s flat stage, where he will likely keep the lead.
There were no other attempted attacks from among the favourites on the mountain stage. The race, which culminates in Paris on September 20, still a long way to go.
“The final ascent is a shallow climb, where you’d waste a lot of energy to gain just a few seconds if you tried anything,” explained Yates, who rides for Mitcheton Scott of Australia.
Adam’s twin brother Simon Yates won three stages on the 2019 Tour de France.
“When you grow up as a kid everyone wants to wear the Tour de France yellow,” said Yates, who grew up in Bury, Lancashire.
I came here to win stages, so once we get to the high mountains I’ll try (and win a Tour de France stage like his brother).
Yates said British team Ineos, which has dominated the Tour in recent years, had a fight on their hands on this tricky Tour.
“Ineos have a real battle going with Jumbo, they are both strong, both well organised so we’ll see how that goes.”
SHOW OF INDIVIDUAL POWER
Lutsenko, started the day trailing Yates by more than five minutes as the peloton left the Ardeche region.
He tagged along with an escape group including Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet on his golden bike, who finished third 55 sec down with Spaniard Jesus Herrada in second.
“That was the most beautiful win of my career,” said the Kazakh national champion, who has also won a Vuelta stage.
“It was important for my team Astana too.”
Lutsenko did not falter on the final climb.
“Near the end I knew Herrada couldn’t catch me,” he said.
Alaphilippe was the focus of attention at the start line as he and the 170 other riders embarked on the 191-km route through dozens of pretty villages perched along the gorges.
This was the first stage where the traditional party mood could be detected on the roadside and fans had gathered on the penultimate climb where there was dancing and singing hours before the passage of the peloton and most of the signs were in support of the emotional Thibaut Pinot, France’s favourite ‘boy next door’.
Notoriously moody, Pinot stopped to chat with the press on Thursday, which was interpreted as a good sign by the French media pack.
“I’m feeling better and better,” said Pinot, who fell hard on day one in the rain at Nice. Stage seven takes the peloton back through the plains with a 168-km run to Lavaur, where British sprinter Mark Cavendish won back in 2011. — AFP