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And here's how Cav did it...
Cavendish had to muscle past Alpecin-Fenix duo Tim Merlier and Jasper Philipsen - plus hold Nacer Bouhanni, who had his back wheel, at bay... But he did it - and that's 32 wins now. Two more and he matches Eddy Merckx's all-time Tour stage record - not that he needs any reminding.
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Tour de France highlights as Mark Cavendish roars to Stage 6 victory
What a team effort from Deceuninck-QuickStep
They were all involved in that second victory for Cavendish with each rider sticking to their roles and really delivering there. What was most astonishing was the man in green finishing it off with such aplomb - he really is back to his best, sprinting like the dominant force he was. It's Cav's third win in Chateauroux - 10 years after his last win, and 13 years after his first ever Tour stage win. Chapeau!
Here's the result:
Victory for Mark Cavendish! Number 32!
Replays show that the Manx Missile won that with a decent gap - almost a bike length - and it was Jasper Philipsen, not Bouhanni who took second place, with Tim Merlier fading to allow Demare in for fourth.
Photo finish! Cav or Bouhanni?
Mark Cavendish came through the middle and looked to have it - but a late surge by Nacer Bouhanni may have just pipped him... let's wait and see...
There was a momentary split in the peloton with riders on both sides of the road... but QuickStep and Alpecin still lead the way...
2km to go: World champion lead out...
Julian Alaphilippe has taken things up for QuickStep with Morkov, Ballerini and Cavendish in his wheel. Trek and Wanty are thre as well.
3km to go: Guarnieri down!
The Italian Jacopo Guarnieri hits the deck on a roundabout - and that's a blow for Groupama because the Italian is Demare's lead-out man. More work for Stefan Kung after he missed out on the win yesterday...
And finally the two leaders have been caught with 2.5km remaining. It's show time.
5km to go: 18 seconds for duo
It looks like Van Avermaet and Kluge have called it a day. Behind, Team DSM have also shown their hand - they're working for Cees Bol. Jumbo-Visma look to be playing the Van Aert card to day, too.
7km to go: Huge roundabout
The first of a series of roundabouts comes with 7km remaining and the gap still on 25 seconds. The pack is split equally down the middle as half go one way and the other half the other. Groupama have emerged from that piece of road furniture on the front alongside Deceuninck - so the game is now well and truly on.
Cavendish is the form rider who had the belief and the back-up - but Demare, at least on paper, is younger, fitter and faster. Over the past years, the Frenchman has consistently been quicker than the Briton - but that all goes out of the window now.
10km to go: GC favourites enter the fray
The teams of the GC riders are also getting involved now in a bid to keep their leaders out of danger. Ineos Grenadiers accordingly edge up for Thomas and Carapaz - but Deceuninck-QuickStep are not keen to budge from their position near the front. They have clearly decided that this is the best place for them to be. Groupama-FDJ, conversely, are quite far back with Demare, as are Arkea-Samsic with Bouhanni. Still 40 seconds, meanwhile, for our two leaders.
15km to go: Sprint trains forming
The gap has actually gone back up to 40 seconds for our two leaders - the peloton seemingly content to just dangle them out there so as not to encourage any counters. The teams of the sprinters won't want a repeat of two days ago when Brent Van Moer almost went all the way. Deceuninck, Alpecin, Miovistar, Bahrain, Intermarche and Movistar are all getting onto the front and readying their sprinters.
20km to go: Breakaway all but over
Just 15 seconds now for Van Avermaet and Kluge as they pass under the 20km banner on a long, straight, exposed and slightly undulating stretch of road, lined with a colonnade of trees on one side. It's the kind of place which could play host to some echelon chaos in the event of crosswinds - but it's a still day and we won't have any bluster on the road into Chateauroux.
Cavendish the favourite?
He's won the last two times the Tour came to Chateauroux (2011 and 2008) and he won the Tour's last bunch sprint, so that's why the man in green is the favourite. He also has the best lead-out train. But Alpecin-Fenix have the man in yellow leading out both Philipsen and Merlier, while we haven't yet seen the best of Arnaud Demare of Groupama-FDJ. Then there's Nacer Bouhanni, who could complete his sequence by winning a maiden Tour stage after finishing third and second on his previous two efforts.
Other names to consider: Colbrelli, Bol, Matthews, Sagan, Greipel, Turgis, Coquard, Ballerini, Garcia... We're also hearing that Wout van Aert is going to try and get in the mix today, so he'd be a serious contender from Jumbo-Visma.
40km to go: One second per kilometre
Our two leaders have just 40 seconds now as Tim Declercq comes back onto the front of the pack to pave the way for the Deceuninck-QuickStep sprint train. We won't have the same case as two days ago when Lotto Soudal's Brent van Moer went clear and almost pulled off a coup. That's no disrespect to Van Moer's teammate Kluge, or even Van Avermaet; it's just these two riders clearly don't have what it takes to cause an upset. Especially with Alpecin-Fenix heavily invested, too.
56km: Colbrelli fastest in the sprint
It's a very technical approach to the intermediate sprint at Lucay-le-Male with a sweeping downhill with a narrow chicane and some tight turns ahead of a slightly uphill grind to the line. And it's Van Avermaet who takes maximum points ahead of Kluge. When the peloton comes through there's a slight flashpoint when Michael Morkov closes the door on Peter Sagan ahead of Sonny Colbrelli emerging as top dog in the battle for third. The Italian beats Morkov and Philipsen, with Matthews, Cavendish and Sagan next over the line, and Bouhanni further back.
Colbrelli isn't happy about something and is remonstrating with Bouhanni, which is odd because the Frenchman was quite far back and not really anywhere near him. If anything, it's Bouhanni who should be having words with Cavendish after they got quite close to each other. Sagan, meanwhile, gives Morkov some dagger eyes as he comes past him in the aftermath. A lot to dissect there... and the duo out ahead now only have 45 seconds to play with.
This is how close it was:
63km to go: Intermediate sprint coming up
Van Avermaet and Kluge have 1'10" as they approach the intermediate sprint, which should be something of a dress rehearsal for the final sprint today once the peloton comes through. An interesting - albeit wholly pointless - stat here from our friends at ProCyclingStats: the last five winners in the Tour on 1st July are Geraint Thomas (2017), Simon Gerrans (2013), Peter Sagan (2012), Thor Hushovd (2006) and David Millar (2000).
75km to go: Alpecin-Fenix pull in the peloton
It's the Alpecin-Fenix team of the yellow jersey Mathieu van der Poel who are pulling rank in the peloton and leading the chase. They will hope to set things up for Stage 3 winner Tim Merlier after fellow Belgian Jasper Philipsen got the nod in Stage 4 but couldn't keep out Mark Cavendish. Two fast men gives them options, though, which is always a good thing - provided they get the balance right and are singing from the same song sheet. Our two leaders still have 1'15" as they continue their club ride out ahead of the pack.
88km to go: GVA takes KOM point
The Belgian leads the German over the top of today's only climb, the Cat.4 Cote de Saint-Aignan (2.2km at 2.9%), which will see him take a single point in the polka dot jersey standings currently being led by the Dutch debutant Ide Schelling of Bora-Hansgrohe (who leads that classification with 5pts). Tomorrow's stage - the longest in 20 years - has five climbs in the final third and a total of 11 KOM points so we should see a more dynamic breakaway and, perhaps, a shuffle in the polka dot jersey standings.
100km to go: Hiding to nothing
Van Avermaet and Kluge are in discussion, one that includes quite a few laughs and shakes of the head. It looks like that they know that they have no chance of staying out - and so may ease up accordingly. The gap is only 1'20" and with Tim 'Breakaway Killer' Declercq on front-of-house duties for Deceuninck-QuickStep, it's surely a matter of time. Alpecin-Fenix also have two riders on the front while Movistar - oddly enough - have five riders tucked in behind. The Spanish team don't have a sprinter while their GC man, Miguel Angel Lopez, is over five minutes back. God knows what they're doing...
110km to go: 46 pro wins between them
Our two escapees are both in their mid-30s but they have very different palmares: the last of Kluge's five pro wins came in stage 17 of the Giro in 2016 while Van Avermaet has won two stages on the Tour, worn the yellow jersey, won Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Roubaix, plus the Olympics road race in Rio - to name just a few. The Belgian is winless since 2019, mind, and he's no longer the force of old.
120km to go: Kluge joins GVA
We now have two riders out ahead with a gap of just under two minutes after Roger Kluge managed to join the man with the brown shorts, yellow visor and golden helmet out ahead.
Some lovely castles, chateaux and stately homes on display today in the Loire Valley...
125km to go: Van Avermaet the lone leader
With most of that break neutralised, the peloton has eased up - allowing the Belgian Olympic champion to open up a sizable gap. He has 1'30" now and has one man - Roger Kluge of Lotto Soudal - trying to bridge over around 30 seconds down. A bit of calm after a frantic opening 45 minutes of racing.
130km to go: Break almost caught
Arkea-Samsic and Qhubeka have combined to devastating effect and the breakaway is almost done and dusted. It's Victor Campenaerts who is now pulling after Warren Bargiul was giving it the old heave-ho earlier - and when WaWa does that on a flat stage, then you know the team means business. With the pack breathing down the break's neck, Greg van Avermaet decides that he'll try his luck going alone. Good luck with that one, Greg.
140km to go: Break splits in two
De Gendt, Zimmermann, Kragh Andersen and Van Avermaet have gone clear after a split in the break. Anthony Turgis (Team TotalEnergies) was trying to bridge over earlier but that came to nothing - no surprise given the fierce chase behind. Asgreen digs deep and drags the remaining three escapees back to the splinter cell and so, as of 138km, we're back to eight men clear. The gap is just 40 seconds though.
145km to go: Groupama, Arkea & Qhubeka chase
This is a fascinating start to a stage which we all thought was a dead-cert for a sprint. The gap is still only 50 seconds for the eight leaders but the peloton really has its work cut out. The presence of a single rider from QuickStep, Bora, DSM and Alpecin-Fenix in the move means none of those teams will have to help with the chase behind - despite having designs for their respective sprinters Cavendish, Sagan, Bol and Merlier/Philipsen at the finish.
That has put the pressure on Groupama-FDJ whose sprinter Demare has not yet competed in either of the two sprints we've seen so far on this Tour - owing to crashes or bad positioning. Arkea-Samsic are now lending a hand - what with their sprinter Nacer Bouhanni coming third and second in the previous two sprints - while Qhubeka-Assos also join the chase for their man Max Walscheid.
155km to go: Stellar eight-man move
After a fast and furious start alongside a series of delightful chateaux a move sticks - and it's a pretty strong pool of talent. The riders in the break are: Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo), Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe), Jonas Rickaert (Alpecin-Fenix), Greg van Avermaet (Ag2R-Citroen), Soren Kragh Andersen (Team DSM), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Sooudal) and Georg Zimmermann (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert). They have almost a minute on the pack, which is being led by the Groupama-FDJ team of Arnaud Demare.
160.5km to go: Stage 6 is on!
Attacks come from the outset after Christian Prudhomme waves his flag from the Skoda sunroof. Two Lotto Soudal riders are in the mix - and that's no surprise given they lost their sprinter (and raison d'etre) Caleb Ewan in Stage 3. Brent van Moer came within 175m of causing an upset the day Cavendish won in Fougeres and they're using similar tactics today. Oliver Naesen of Ag2R-Citroen is also in this early move.
Over the Loire and ready to do battle
The riders have crossed the river Loire, which they will ride along for the first tranche of this stage before crossing it once again and heading south to the Cher river, which the route will go along until the only categorised climb. Five stages so far with five different winners... will someone double up today? Merlier and Cavendish will hope so.
Stage 6 almost under way...
The riders are in the neutral zone ahead of today's start in the aptly named city of Tours. It's a relatively short 160.5km stage today to the sleepy town Chateauroux with just the one categorised climb on the menu. A bunch sprint is expected as the sun shines down on the race - and that man Mark Cavendish must be among the favourites, having twice previously won in Chateauroux, birthplace of the actor Gerard Depardieu.
Has Pogacar already got this Tour sewn up?
What it is with vintage Tour time trials resulting in just eight seconds separating the yellow jersey and second place?
Far from this being as epic as LeMond vs Fignon in Paris ’89, Wednesday’s 27.2km race of truth resulted in the same time gap between second and first on GC – but this time the yellow jersey held on despite the rip-roaring ride from the man who took the stage spoils.
Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) did more than deny Stefan Kung what seemed like a deserved maiden Tour stage win at Laval. Indeed, many now fear that he effectively put the Tour to bed just five days in. By failing to find the eight extra seconds that would have put him into yellow, it wasn’t exactly a case of history repeating itself from Pogacar – nine months on after his barnstorming TT up La Planche des Belles Filles.
That, of course, came on the penultimate day of the 2020 Tour. The 22-year-old’s latest display of dominance hit our screens just five days into the defence of his crown, with many of his rivals still reeling from the crashes they sustained during four dramatic opening stages in Brittany. But fear not: at this stage last year, Pogacar was only seven seconds off the race summit. So perhaps the Slovenian tyro has regressed a little after all?
So, is this race over before we even hit the mountains? Read on by clicking the link below to learn about the fate of all of Pogacar's rivals for yellow after yesterday's TT - which saw the likes of Carapaz, Kelderman, Gaudu and Mas drop down the standings, with Vingegaard, Uran, Latour and Lutsenko going in the other direction.
Stage 5 recap
History looked to be repeating itself as Tadej Pogacar donned a white skinsuit and humbled the entire Tour de France peloton in a time trial – but this time round, unlike the fateful Stage 20 of last year’s race, the Slovenian did not end up with the yellow jersey.
Victory in the 27.2km race against the clock between Changé and Laval saw defending champion Pogacar (UAE-Team Emirates) move within eight seconds of Mathieu van der Poel after the Dutchman from Alpecin-Fenix defended his yellow jersey with grit and determination on Wednesday.
Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ) looked set to pick up a maiden Tour stage win until 22-year-old Pogacar – the sixth-last rider down the ramp – pulled out all the stops to clock a time of exactly 32 minutes to confine the Swiss TT champion to second place by 19 seconds.
Van der Poel holds on to yellow
With defending champion Pogacar now just eight seconds off the summit, the 108th edition of the Tour de France has well and truly started.
Dutchman Van der Poel now leads the Slovenian defending champion by eight seconds - what will now unfold on Stage 6?
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