It’s the last day in the mountains, General Classification on the line and it’s a sprinter on the attack!
196 km with 2 big climbs for the day and it’s the last opportunity for the climbers in the race to take some time from the yellow jersey of Jens Voigt. Tomorrow’s predominantly flat 38km time trial shouldn’t present too many worries for the big German so if last year’s winner, Leipheimer wants to take the race away from Voigt, today is the day he has to do it.
Not interested in the General Classification, but chasing some glory on the day were the usual group of early attackers. Yesterday’s brave attacker, Sebastien Rosseler (Quickstep) was in the group, ultra reliable Aussie Matty Hayman (Rabobank) was also there along with time trial specialist, Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner). It was the fourth man of this group that was the big surprise move of the day though, the old sprint king himself Erik Zabel! Erik, unable to win in the bunch sprint finishes so far this tour (or this year for that matter…) decided to have a go in a breakaway on a mountain stage.
This move by Erik actually had some logic to it though as he currently leads the sprint competition and by going in the break he could comfortably wrap up the intermediate sprints along the way. By winning each sprint on the day, Erik has effectively won the sprint title, still with 2 days to go in the tour.
After numerous kilometres off the front it seemed that Zabel wasn’t interested in just the sprint title as he pulled hard in the break with the three others opening the gap to a maximum of 11:30min over the CSC led peloton. Could Erik be dreaming of a stage win after a possible 180km breakaway? Whatever the case, this stage certainly wouldn’t end in a sprint as the finish line is atop of a 7km, 1st category climb.
After 110km into the race, the pace up front became too much for both Rosseler (Quickstep) and Hayman (Rabobank) as they dropped off the breakaway. The two Germans, Zabel and Lang kept powering on still having a 7.5min lead over the dwindling peloton with only 40km remaining.
It was a tough 40km though and Alexandre Vinokourov, team leader turned super-domestique was driving the peloton for his leader, Andrey Kaschechkin. The Astana man who looked very strong on yesterday’s climbs was relying on this stage to make his mark on the General Classification and ‘Vino’ along with Athens silver medallist Paulinho were doing all they could to help him.
Finally, after more than 170km in the lead, the brave attackers Zabel and Lang shook hands and called it a day as they were caught by the peloton with only 6.5km to go. So close but so far for the German pair. Will this be the start of new tactics in the future for Erik? If it wasn’t a mountain stage with the GC on the line then perhaps it could have worked today. Whatever the case, he has secured yet another sprint jersey for his vast collection so the day wasn’t a total waste of time for him.
With the breakaway caught, the real race was on and it was Astana and CSC setting the pace on the early slopes of the climb. The first serious attack to try and break Voigt came from yesterday’s winner Leipheimer with 3km to go. Levi’s attack broke most of the peloton but he couldn’t rid himself of Voigt (CSC), Kaschechkin (Astana) and Petrov (Lampre). With 2.2km to go Levi tried again and this time he got away with Kaschechkin, the pair slowly opening a gap on Voigt and Petrov.
It grew from 10 metres, metre by metre slowly opening up to 100m, but Voigt wasn’t broken as he gritted his teeth and dragged himself back to the front with only 1km to go. With the determination to win his home tour plastered across his pained face, Voigt not only crawled his way back to the front, he then proceeded to attack for the win with 400m to go. Only Leipheimer had the strength to go after him, but it was too late – Voigt crossed the line, one hand in the air, exhausted but victorious.
With tomorrow’s time trial to come and a 24 second lead over 2nd placed Leipheimer, has Voigt sewn up the German Tour? Leipheimer, speaking to German TV straight after the race seemed to think so, “Jens is riding probably the best I’ve ever seen him ride… he is very strong and I would pick him for my favourite overall.”
Tune into PEZ tomorrow for all the news on the crucial 38km time trial. The order of the top ten on GC will surely change to some degree, but will the yellow jersey change shoulders?
Stage 6 Results
1 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC 5.11.48
2 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 0.02
3 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana 0.08
4 Evgeni Petrov (Rus) Lampre-Fondital 0.10
5 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 0.36
6 Johann Tschopp (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 0.41
General Classification After Stage 6
1 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC 27.39.29
2 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 0.24
3 Evgeni Petrov (Rus) Lampre-Fondital 0.56
4 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 1.00
5 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astan 1.03
6 Inigo Cuesta Lopez De Castro (Spa) Team CSC 1.16
7 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 1.18
8 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) T-Mobile Team 1.34