The day started off well when I arrived in La Léchère; I found a good parking spot not far from the start, my press pass was waiting for me and was easily obtained & the sun was shining. All things that sometimes aren’t that easy to come by this year at bike races!
First stop was the Team SKY hotel to see if I could grab a quick word with the hero from yesterday and man of the hour, Chris Froome. His dominating performance on the Valmorel climb and his performances in every race he’s done all year have marked him as the clear favorite for the Tour de France, so consequently there were quite a few people hanging around hoping to talk to him.
Down in the car park though and completely ignored by the passing public Astana had set up shop with their neat looking Specializeds all lined up & their Campag EPS electronic shifting with the batteries mounted under the bottle cages.
A little bit further up the road at the entrance to the hotel there was another Campag equipped team on display with the French Europcar squad but they were all still riding mechanical shifting – even their team leader Thomas Voeckler.
Interestingly Voeckler chose the deep dish Bora wheels for the highly critical ride down to the sign on, before changing them 5 minutes later for a pair of lower profile Ultra Hyperon 2s. Had he seen something in the race book that made him change his mind?
His teammate and co-leader Pierre Rolland also went for Hyperons and an interesting carbon stem/bar combo with a custom painted finish, ‘Force et Honneur’ or Strength and Honor.
Chris Froome had none of that on his handlebars though with just an SRM that is used to seeing some pretty big numbers on it being all the motivation that he needs.
Rolland was also the only rider on Europcar using oval chainrings which no matter how many times I see them they always look bizarre…
The man I was waiting to see, Chris Froome was also the only rider on his team using the oval chainrings but when he came out of the hotel he playfully grabbed Richie Porte’s bike and started walking away with that one instead.
Porte was awake to his team leader’s tricks though and quickly grabbed his machine before coming over and having a chat with me. First up I congratulated him on his ride yesterday and the fact that team SKY now have what looks like complete control of the race. Who is your rival at the GC now for the Dauphiné? “Dodge. (Michael Rogers/SaxoBank) I think he’s got to try and attack us.”
I then explained to Richie about my ride on Tuesday up the Alpe d’Huez and down the Sarenne and how bad it was as the SKY guys hadn’t had time to do a recon of it before tomorrow’s crucial stage. Just as I was explaining the road using the words ‘atrocious and really difficult’ Chris Froome who had been eavesdropping butted into our conversation with, ‘Is that the final climb tomorrow you’re talking about?’
The yellow jersey holder and No.1 favorite for the Tour and a nice guy to boot – yep, you can butt in on my conversation.
I explained that no I was actually talking about the descent of the Col de Sarenne to which Chris replied – ‘I better be first down there then!’
The SKY boys then had to ride down to the sign on so I wished them well and headed down there myself to see who else I could catch up with and what other interesting bikes and things I could find.
Warren Barguil’s Argos-Shimano Felt stood out with its super long and super uncomfortable looking carbon prototype Shimano saddle. Each to their own I guess but none of his teammates had the same.
Down in the sign on zone now, one man that I was looking out for was Orica-GreenEdge’s Mitch Docker who would be one of Michael Matthews’ most important men on a stage that was classified by the ASO as a ‘possible’ sprint stage. The 143km on the menu to Grenoble are far from flat though and I thought Mitch and the GreenEdge boys may have their work cut out for them. Is Matthews climbing well?
“I think so. Looking back over the years with the U/23 Worlds (2010 World U/23 Champ on the hilly Melbourne circuit) he got around that course well and he’s pretty well known for his climbing I think. I think we can rely on him getting over and then with this type of peloton, there’s not a lot of pure sprinters here. He was really close the other day (finishing 2nd to Boasson Hagen on Stage 3) and it was a good confidence boost for him and the team.”
Michael Matthews talking with another Australian who certainly is climbing well, 4th placed on GC Michael Rogers.
Next up on the radar was recent PEZ interviewee Brent Bookwalter. I’d personally never met Brent before but he came across in real life just as I’ve read in our previous PEZ interviews as an easy going guy & intelligent rider.
First thing I had to ask him was about his breakaway from the day before where he made the 15 rider move that almost went to the end for Matthew Busche;
“Yeah it was nice. A bit harder than I wanted it to be. A big group of 10 went and I had to go across with a few others and I spent a lot of energy just getting there. We didn’t catch on until the first k on the first categorized climb. So that whole first bit we were just chasing and killing ourselves but it was good to get there and be in that move for the team. We don’t have a GC guy here and those are the kind of moves that we need to be represented in.”
The time had come for all the riders to gather on the start line as they awaited the depart but there was just one problem – the entire Garmin-Sharp team, except for Andrew Talansky – hadn’t signed on yet. They all arrived in a hurry and with a gentle scolding from race announcer Daniel Mangeas, Jacob Rathe was the last man to sign on and now the peloton was ready. There was still five minutes to wait before the official start time though so Daniel Mangeas tried to gee up the crowd with a story or two whilst most of the riders just chilled out in their own little world.
BMC neo-pro Lawrence Warbasse was already hungry and he raided his pockets for a sandwich which very quickly went down the hatch.
Alejandro Valverde was looking impatient to get the race underway and wasn’t talking to anybody.
Whereas ex teammates Juan Antonio Flecha and Ian Stannard had time for a long conversation that certainly didn’t interest the Movistar rider behind.
And the Norwegian pairing of Hushovd and Boasson Hagen had a good chat too.
And finally they headed off on what proved to be an ‘almost’ sprint day with Tommy V getting the win from a four man break with the bunch finishing just behind them.
Dauphiné 13 Stage 6 Results:
1 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 3:24:13
2 José Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team
3 Kevin Seeldraeyers (Bel) Astana Pro Team
4 Egor Silin (Rus) Astana Pro Team
5 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling 0:00:46
6 Gianni Meersman (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
7 Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana Pro Team
8 Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
9 Arnaud Gerard (Fra) Bretagne-Seche Environnement
10 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step