Stage 6: Lisieux - Vitre

McEwen gets his sprinting hat trick (how can I not just pick this guy every day?). Lampre and Quickstep lead the charge to the finish with Boonen riding sixth wheel and McEwen way back, but McEwen had an excellent lead out from Steegmans that took him straight to the front. Boonen tried to catch McEwen's wheel but it looked like he got frozen up by Caspar jumping in from his right. Boonen tried to reaccelerate using Bennati's wheel, but neither Bennati nor Boonen could catch McEwen. Boonen has to be the unhappiest-looking man receiving the yellow jersey ever. Much has been made about how Steegmans was making up for his blown lead out yesterday -- he went too early and apologized to McEwen -- but if I could do a leadout like Steegmans I don't think I would ever apologize.

Robbie McEwen had some post-race commentary on that little arm waggling victory dance he did:

"I had a bet with Levi Leipheimer... we've been talking about it since March in Tirreno-Adriatico. He told me to do a victory salute, but a special one: the Dumb and Dumber move, from the movie. When you saw it, you know that it looks like you're running really fast," he said, swinging his arms. "Levi will be happy with that and now he owes me!"

This appeared to be an entirely uneventful day, leaving the peloton very thankful. Despite a bit of drizzle there were no casualties, the break stayed a way a bit long but was reeled in proper, and there wasn't much competition at the intermediate points except for Pineau going for a the third place KOM points on the only climb of the day. Boonen did make it into an early 18-man break, but with the yellow jersey on his shoulders that wasn't going to work. 15 of those riders were reeled in, leaving Backstedt, Geslin, and Brard to maintain the break for the rest of the day until the final kilometers.

Tomorrow is the time trial! My pick should be obvious. It'll be nice for the overall standings to start taking real shape.

Prediction check: * Boonen first, McEwen second * McEwen first, Boonen third

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TiVo-delayed stage log

Prediction: Boonen first, McEwen second. Boonen keeps making little mistakes that cost him the win, but he knows how to win a TdF stage so he'll get it right eventually. Tomorrow is the time trial stage, so this would be the last chance for McEwen to grab yellow, but 24 seconds is a lot of time to have to grab over Boonen, and thus far McEwen has avoided going for the intermediate sprint bonuses.

Another prediction: we should see Pineau over the first climb first, and then the breakaway will take over, and then the sprinters -- isn't that how all these stages have been? :)

There will be some headwinds tailwinds at the finish, perhaps getting the sprinters to mistime their efforts yet again. There was a bit of drizzle at the start but most of the race should be dry. Looks pretty overcast.

Fabio Sacchi (Milram) didn't start.

Cote de la Huniere: The first break actually went earlier than I thought. Guerini and Lopez Garcia went on a break over the climb first. Pineau managed to take the third place points.

Tom Boonen and Thor Hushovd joined a break of 18, though it was Vaugrenard who took the intermediate sprint to jump back into the lead of the young rider's competition.

CSC helped bring back 15 of the breakway riders, including Boonen and Hushovd. Backstedt (Liquigas), Geslin (Bouygues), and Brard (Caisse) are ahead by 4 minutes.

CSC (including O'Grady chatting with Voigt) is at the front slowing the peloton down. Bobby J and Kl�den are back with the team cars.

The peloton is back to the business of reeling in the break with Quickstep and CA at the front.

Chantingne, 72.5k to go: no contesting of this sprint point with the breakaway just rolling through -- Geslin, Brard, Backstedt

The peloton really doesn't want to seem to let the break stay away as long as it normally has this Tour. The lead is down to 3:37 after being over 4:45

43k, 2:35. The lead is plunging and should be caught with about 20k to go

31k to go and the peloton can see the break (1:28)

The peloton has really slowed it's chase down. 17k to go and the lead is still at 1:07

They're actually reporting a tailwind finish (earlier, they implied headwind). Rain clouds are also rolling in.

8k to go, 0:19

A small climb is helping the break hold off the peloton, but the gap is the length of a single traffic circle. Lampre is out in full force. 5k to go, 0:04. It doesn't seem like Backstedt is doing much to help his own break. And the catch with 4k to go.

Bennati is going to have a lot of obligation to win this one with the way his team (Lampre) is working for him

Boonen is sixth wheel right now. McEwen is hiding a bit back.

Lotto is leading out McEwen from far back

Boonen tries to grab McEwen's wheel

McEwen on the right and he wins! He owes a lot to a great leadout by Steegmans. McEwen gave a little marching arm dance.

related articles: Tour de France 2006
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