Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) took his seventh Tour de France stage victory on the longest stage of this year’s race, a 219.9-kilometre slog from Binche to the uphill finish in Longwy. It was far from a simple, slow day out typical of first-week racing.
80 kilometers into the stage, Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) finally managed to escape after 90 minutes of breathless aggression from dozens of wannabe attackers, taking with him Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) and GC hopeful Jakob Fuglsang (Israel-Premier Tech ). The peloton finally settled down as the three-man break approached the first third-category climb of the Tour.
After the furious opening phases, stage 6 entered a very quiet second act. The breakaway’s lead stretched to around four minutes at the halfway point, but it was becoming clear to the Israel-Premier Tech staff and Fuglsang that despite the power around him, the escape was likely to be caught, it wasn’t going to be worth it, so the Dane bailed out 66 kilometers from the finish.
Van Aert and Simmons pressed on, one chasing a shrinking chance of a second stage win while giving his team a day off with UAE Team Emirates forced to chase, and the young American chasing KOM points if nothing else.
However, with Fuglsang back in the peloton, Van Aert and Simmons seemed to find another gear and their gap yo-yoed back out and hovered around two minutes for 20 frantic kilometres. It wasn’t until Alpecin-Deceuninck’s Sylvan Dillier came to the aid of EF Education-EasyPost and Bora-Hansgrohe that the gap came down to 1:40 with 40 km to go.
With 35 of the hardest kilometres left, it looked like the fire was going out at the front of the race as their advantage dropped towards a minute, and the young American’s day was done just a few kilometers further up the road, cracked by a slight testing acceleration from Van Aert. But as the kilometres ticked down and the gap finally began its precipitous drop, even the yellow jersey showed a rare grimace, and he was caught on the challenging Cat. 3 Côte du Pulventeux (0.8 km at 10.9%), just outside the last 10 kilometres. As the peloton drove up the climb, Van Aert drifted through and out the back, saying goodbye to the race lead in the process.
The penultimate climb, its crest inside 5 km to go, offered some of the most violent gradients, and Alexis Vuillermoz (TotalEnergies) took his chance to attack as the GC favorites marked each other behind him, Pogačar trying an acceleration towards the top.
The Frenchman held just five seconds when he hit the foot of the climb to the finish (2.1km at 5.5%), but he was swallowed up by the UAE Team Emirates-led bunch 1.5 km to go. Rafał Majka drove the pace on the steepest ramp to the flamme rouge where Brandon McNulty took a last turn to set up Pogačar’s punch for the line.
It was Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) who launched his first sprint with 350 meters to go, but Pogačar showed he’s on another planet with a sprint that put a gap of several bike lengths between him and second-place Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco ), with David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) snatching third.
With his first stage victory of the 2022 Tour de France, Pogačar moves into the yellow jersey, four seconds ahead of Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) and 31 seconds ahead of Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) who leaps up to third place.
Tour de France (2.UWT)
Binche → Longwy