Edvald Boasson Hagen took Team Sky’s first ever Tour de France stage in Liseaux today, sprinting away from Matt Goss (HTC) and Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cérvelo) in the final few hundred metres.
It was the first ever win in the Tour for a British registered team, and 42 years since Barry Hoban won for the British national squad in Sallanches, in 1968.
Geraint Thomas provided a brilliant lead out for his Norweigan team mate, covering the moves in the final kilometre as Boasson Hagen sat comfortably on his wheel. He eventually kicked with around 200 metres to go, putting daylight between him and his rivals. Hushovd never made an impression on his countryman while Goss left his effort too late.
The final sprint came atop a short but steep ninety metre climb that shed the race’s pure sprinting talents. It proved too selective for the likes of Mark Cavendish (HTC), who rolled in over a minute behind the winners.
It was a reduced peloton of sixty-two riders who galloped for the line, which included most of the big GC names. Levi Leipheimer was the only one to lose time after hitting the deck inside the last five kilometers. He ended the stage one minute six seconds down.
No one team controlled the sprint for the line, with many of those who were prominent at yesterday’s uphill finish once again in contention. José Rojas (Movistar) finished fourth, with Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) seventh.
Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) launched an attack with two kilometers to go. He quickly gained one hundred metres advantage on the peloton, but didn’t have the strength to hold it over the climb.
Boasson Hagen had looked strong yesterday, attacking inside the final kilometer the day’s stage. That surge proved fruitless, but in retrospect provided a clue to the form that he showed today. He held his sprint impressively, and crossed the line with half a bike length between himself and his pursuers.
It was a good day for Norway, with Hushovd finishing third and keeping his yellow jersey too.
Victories came in twos for Team Sky today as well, with Ian Stannard taking the Tour of Austria’s fifth stage.
Most of the stage was raced through driving rain and, with the finishing kilometers winding through Liseaux, there were fears that slippery conditions would cause problems. Ironically the finish was, in that respect, a damp squib, with the sun coming out for the first time towards the end and the stage finishing incident-free.
After yesterday’s crash-strewn stage, today’s was positively tame. Leipheimer’s unfortunate incident, in which he slipped on some wet road-markings, was the only one worthy of note.
The early move included breakaway enthusiast Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil), who was present in the stage four breakaway. He was joined by Anthony Roux (FdJ), Leonardo Duque (Cofidis), Adriano Malori (Lampre-ISD) and Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil).
They built up a lead of over ten minutes by the stage’s first climb and, Malori, the group’s last representative to be swallowed by the peloton, stayed clear until the five kilometer mark.
Hoogerland’s second day of escape ultimately proved fruitful, however, as he picked up two and one King of the Mountain points atop the day’s first two, category three, climbs. They are enough for him to take the polka dot jersey from the shoulders of Cadel Evans (BMC).
Cavendish beats rivals to intermediate sprint
The day’s intermediate sprint came after one hundred and thirty one kilometers and, with the first five spots taken by the break, Cavendish was first to cross the line. He picked up ten points for his sixth spot, and led Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cérvelo) and José Rojas over the line in seventh and eighth. Gilbert finished tenth to pick himself up six further points.
Gilbert remains in the green jersey, with Rojas second – but only by one point. Cavendish sits in fifth, fifty points behind the Belgian.
Tour de France 2011, stage six: Dinan – Lisieux, 226.5km
1. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky 5-13-37
2. Matthew Goss (Aus) HTC-Highroad
3. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Garmin-Cervelo
4. Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil
5. Jose Rojas (Esp) Movistar
6. Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ
7. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma Lotto
8. Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Quick Step
9. Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil
10. Arnold Jeanesson (Fra) FDJ
16. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
47. David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Cervelo
56. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky all at same time
101. Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad at 1-44 min
106. Ben Swift (GBr) Team Sky at same time
General Classification after stage six
1. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Garmin-Cervelo 22-50-34
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC at 1 sec
3. Frank Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek at 4 sec
4. David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Cervelo at 8 sec
5. Andréas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack at 10 sec
6. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky at 10 sec
7. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky at 12 sec
8. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky
9. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard-Trek
10. Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard_Trek all at same time
62. Ben Swift (GBr) Team Sky at 3-50
80. Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad at 6-06
Geraint Thomas – best young rider, and ace lead-out man
Bradley Wiggins wraps up
Leonardo Duque drives the early break
Race leader Thor Hushovd gets some assistance
Cadel Evans in the polka dot jersey
The rain was never far away during stage six
Edvald Boasson Hagen celebrates his – and Team Sky’s – first Tour win
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Tour de France 2011: Stage reports
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Tour de France 2011: Photo galleries
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Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson
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