Rafał Majka finishes safe as Rüdi Selig impresses with ninth spot in the bunch sprint on Tour de France stage 6.
The steep slopes of la Planche des Belles Filles yesterday had done their job of shaking up the race a little, with a change in the wearer of the Yellow Jersey, as well as propelling BORA-hansgrohe’s Rafał Majka into the race’s overall top ten. Working hard to protect the Polish rider before the race headed into a weekend of climbing, Rafał came home safe with the bunch after the sprinters, ably supported by his teammates.
Today’s 216km stage, with just two fourth category climbs, was pan-flat in comparison to the finale of yesterday’s punishing route. With a flat finish in the finish town of Troyes, it was the kind of terrain that would encourage a bunch sprint, but with the GC race starting to take shape, there was always a chance that a brave overall challenger would shake up the day. With crosswinds also forecast, the outcome of the stage wasn’t set in stone.
With no particularly testing terrain coming up, the day’s break went almost immediately. The three escapees didn’t pose a threat to the GC race, and in light of this, the peloton was happy for them to build up a respectable lead of four minutes – enough of a gap to make sure they weren’t out of reach in the final kilometres. The wind was blowing, but not enough to split the peloton – even when an umbrella blew into the road, sending panic through the bunch. This incident didn’t deter the front of the chasing group, who were steadily working to bring the gap down – it was clear that as the race hit its final 50km that the breakaway group was running out of steam.
While the sprint teams started to up the pace and prepare for the finale, the BORA-hansgrohe riders were working hard to keep Rafał Majka safe in what was going to be a hectic finish. The Polish rider was in a strong position in the top ten of the GC, and the team was well aware that in the final 10km there was a lot of street furniture and some twists and turns ready to cause splits in the bunch. Just under 3km to go and the catch was made, the bunch stringing itself out, preparing for the chaos of the sprint. The team brought Rafał in safely with the bunch, with no change in the overall standings.
With Rafał well protected, Rüdiger Selig tried his luck in the sprint, and came a strong ninth, in spite of not having a lead-out train. “I tried to go for the sprint today on my own and without a lead-out train, because the team’s primary goal was to keep Rafał safe, avoid any incidents and bring him to the finish line together with the main GC rivals and without losing any time. I was actually on the wheel of Kittel with 800m to go and tried to stay behind him, but when the final sprint kicked off, I didn’t have the power to follow. I would have liked to have been closer at the finish, but it’s my first Tour de France, so a ninth place in a fast finale against some of the world’s best sprinters is always a good result.”
Looking back on the stage, Team Coach, Patxi Vila, was glad the team accomplished its goal of bringing Rafał home safe. "Our main objective was to protect Rafał Majka. He had to spend as little energy as possible after yesterday’s effort and stay close to the main GC contenders in the finish. We offered Rüdi the option to have Marcus Burghardt as his leadout in the sprint, but he chose to go it alone. He finished ninth and at the same time, Rafał held on to his tenth spot in the GC without conceding any time to his rivals.”
During the course of today’s stage, the team was informed that the Court of Arbitration for Sport had issued its decision to reject an urgent request for provisional measures in relation to the exclusion of Peter Sagan from the Tour de France. No rationale for the decision was provided in the media release of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and as a result, the team will refrain from making any comments. BORA-hansgrohe will issue an official statement on the decision in due course after all of the relevant information is known and studied by its legal team.