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Defending champion Geraint Thomas the best of overall contenders today, finishing fourth

Dylan Teuns of Beharain-Merida has won Stage 6 of the Tour de France, getting the better of fellow escapee Giulio Ciccone of Trek-Segafredo on a brutal final climb at La Planche des Belles Filles today. Defending champion Geraint Thomas of Team Ineos was the best of the overall contenders, finishing fourth, and while Julian Alaphilippe of Deceuninck-Quick Step tried valiantly to hold onto the yellow jersey, Ciccone takes the overall lead by 6 seconds.

Teuns and Ciccone had been in a 14-strong breakaway group that formed early on in the stage from Colmar.

There were just four members of that group – the other two being mountains classification leader Tim Wellens of Lotto-Soudal, and Xandro Meurisse of Wanty Groupe Gobert – left in contention as they crested the last of the day’s seven categorised climbs around 20 kilometres out,

It’s the fourth time that the climb to La Planche des Belles Filles in the Vosges mountain range has provided a stage finish to a Tour de France stage, but today the summit was a kilometre further up the road than on previous visits, and what’s more, was on gravel roads and with a gradient hitting 25 per cent.

By the time they passed under the flame rouge and into the final kilometre, it was clear that Teuns and Ciccone, having dropped their fellow escapees, would battle it out for the stage win, and it was the Bahrain-Merida man who prevailed.

Ciccone shook his head in frustration at missing out on the stage win as he crossed the line, but the bonus seconds he took were enough for him to take the race lead from Julian Alaphilippe, despite the Deceuninck-Quick Step rider putting in a spirited defence of the yellow jersey by attacking from the overall contenders’ group.

Only defending champion Thomas of Team Ineos and Groupama-FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot – a favourite for the stage win today in what is effectively his back yard – finished ahead of Alaphilippe from the GC group.

In terms of the overall standings today, it was another Frenchman – and past podium finisher – Romain Bardet of AG2R La Mondiale who was perhaps the biggest loser.

By getting in the break today, Ciccone – winner of the mountains classification at the Giro d’Italia in May – signalled his intention to become the first man since his fellow Italian Claudio Chiappucci in 1991 to win the competition at both the Grand Tours in the same year.

He’d end the day in yellow – and the past three riders to have done that on this climb, Bradley Wiggins in 2012, Vincenzo Nibali in 2014 and Chris Froome two years ago, all went on to top the podium in Paris.

Given he was one of the chief animators of the Giro d’Italia as he pursued the blue king of the mountains jersey two months ago, it’s unlikely Ciccone will have the reserves of energy to carry him through a second three-week race.

But, with the Alps and Pyrenees ahead, and Thomas having proved today that he is in better form than many thought before the race, the 106th edition of the Tour de France – the most open, perhaps, for at least a decade – is shaping up to be a belter.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.