Stage Six of the Tour de France, from Aigurande to the Super-Besse ski station (1289m elevation), presents the first mountaintop finish of this year’s race. Considered a medium mountain stage, the hilly 195.5km route across the Massif Central includes three intermediate sprints and four classified climbs. The final ascent, an 11km category 2 climb to Super-Besse, features a 10 percent gradient for the last 1.5km.
The yellow jersey of Gerolsteiner’s Stefan Schumacher will be under major pressure from all sides. Many GC contenders have vowed not to wait for the weekend stages in the Pyrenees to put their rivals to the test, and Silence-Lotto’s Cadel Evans, first of the serious overall favorites, is in fourth place, just 21 seconds behind Schumacher.
Other riders are eager to dethrone Schumacher as well. Team Columbia has three men in the top eight (Kim Kirchen, second; George Hincapie, seventh; and current Best Young Rider Thomas Lvkvist, eighth) and Columbia is throwing its support behind Kirchen, who is just 12 seconds adrift of Schumacher and believes Thursday’s bumpy course is well suited to his characteristics. Team Garmin-Chipotle is also well placed, with David Millar in third and Christian Vande Velde in sixth. Millar’s strong time trial on Tuesday has left him 12 seconds behind Schumacher as well. ‘Plan A was to try and get the yellow jersey here,’ he said after missing out on victory to Schumacher on Tuesday. ‘So we’re going to have to resort to plan B now-rendezvous at Super-Besse.’