By Carlos de Torres
Mont Aigoual, France, Sep 3 (efe-epa).- Kazakh national champion cyclist Alexey Lutsenko cruised to an easy victory in the Tour de France’s sixth stage on Thursday, while the United Kingdom’s Adam Yates held on to the overall leader’s yellow jersey he had secured the day before.
Lutsenko left his rivals in the distance toward the end of the 191-kilometer (119-mile) route from Le Teil to Mont Aigoual to claim his first-ever Tour stage win, crossing the line in a summit finish in the southern Occitanie region in a time of four hours, 32 minutes and 34 seconds.
A gap of 55 seconds separated the Astana cyclist from Spanish second-place finisher Jesus Herrada (Cofidis), while two other riders who had broken away from the main peloton – Belgian CCC Team rider Greg van Avermaet and the United States’ Neilson Powless (EF Pro Cycling), the first Native American to compete in the Tour de France – finished 2:15 and 2:17, respectively, behind Lutsenko.
The leaders of the General Classification were well off the pace, perhaps saving up energy for the final week.
Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), who claimed the yellow jersey on Wednesday after France’s Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) was assessed a 20-second penalty for irregular feeding toward the end of Stage 5, finished Thursday’s stage along with a group of nearly 30 other cyclists that also included Alaphilippe, Colombian defending champion Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) and Slovenian riders Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates).
After an extremely odd Stage 5 that featured no breakaways or attacks, eight riders set a blistering pace in the early going, including Lutsenko; their lead over the main peloton reached 6:45 at the 87-km-mark, when Van Avermaet briefly held the virtual lead in the General Classification.
The stage was punctuated by the Col de la Lusette ascent, an 11.7-km climb with a 7.6-percent average gradient, and it was at that juncture that Lutsenko took control.
First to attack was Powless, who turned 24 on Thursday, but the Kazakh burst past him and soloed to victory at the summit of Mt. Aigoual despite Herrada’s best effort to close to gap.
“This victory is very important for me. This is the Tour de France, the most important race in the world. I’m very happy. I’ve worked so hard to get this victory. All this work has paid off,” Lutsenko was quoted as saying on the Tour de France’s official website.
Yates, for his part, had vowed Wednesday to defend his yellow jersey and successfully did so in a Stage 6 in which the General Classification remained virtually unchanged.
“The final climb wasn’t too hard. It was difficult to make a gap there, and therefore attacking would have been a huge effort for a small gain. So we rode steady to save energy for the coming days,” the overall leader said.
Friday’s Stage 7 is a 168-km route from Millau to Lavaur that will favor the sprinters. It will be followed by the race’s two Pyrenees mountain stages on Saturday and Sunday. EFE-EPA