Tour 2022: Tadej Pogacar impresses with victory in Longwy, Van Aert animates stage

Tadej Pogačar has won the sixth stage in the Tour de France, with arrival in Longwy. The Slovenian of UAE Emirates was the first to cross the line in a stage animated by Wout van Aert. The UAE Emirates rider turned out to be much too strong for his competitors in a sprint uphill. Pogačar kills two birds with one stone, as he is also the new leader.

For a lot of riders it was licking wounds after a much-discussed cobblestone stage to Wallers-Arenberg, but there was really no time to recover from all the chaos. In a grand tour there is no respite for the drivers: after all, a new day and therefore a stage awaits. After the start in Denmark and the sequel in France, the sixth stage of the Tour de France started in Binche, Belgium. It is the first final that could be labeled as hilly. The stage went mainly in a southeasterly direction to the French Longwy, where the venom was in the tail.

Van der Hoorn on the road with Skujiņš and Cosnefroy – photo: Cor Vos

Barrage of attacks in spectacular opening phase
In a very animated opening phase, half the peloton tried to participate in the flight of the day, which meant that the first race hour flew by. Taco van der Hoorn promised to attack again before the stage and the speed rider of Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert kept his word. The Dutchman managed to break away from the pack after many fives and sixs, together with the French puncheur Benoît Cosnefroy and the Latvian Toms Skujiņš. These three riders managed to amass a maximum lead of one minute, but the race was certainly not yet in a definitive fold. Meanwhile, Van der Poel had a hard time (again) in the tail of the group.

It remained restless in the peloton and we saw a barrage of counter attacks, with Wout van Aert as the main initiator. The jersey wearer drew on his inexhaustible arsenal several times, but couldn’t get away. Gears from Filippo Ganna, Tom Pidcock, Nils Politt and Matej Mohorič were also nipped in the bud, but this ensured that the lead of the three leaders – Van der Hoorn, Skujiņš and Cosnefroy – was wiped out. With a good 180 kilometers to go, these three were caught again and so everything had to be redone.

The yellow man was very active in the first race hours – photo: Cor Vos

New leading group – with three Danes – gets little space
Van Aert then tried several times to jump away from the peloton, but the Jumbo-Visma rider was not with them when a leading group of ten men managed to form. With the tireless mountain king Magnus Cort, Kasper Asgreen and Mads Pedersen, three Danes were present, as were Vegard Stake Laengen, Andreas Leknessund, Simon Geschke, Georg Zimmermann, Stan Dewulf, Ben Swift and Christophe Laporte. This flight seemed to have a chance of success, but in the peloton they were still not satisfied with the state of affairs and so the hunt was started again.

This resulted in another regrouping after sixty crazy kilometers. In the peloton, a lot of riders were already on top of their game, but there was no end to the incessant stream of attacks. Van Aert turned out to have enough reserves and with 145 kilometers to go, he took off again, this time with Quinn Simmons and Jakob Fuglsang. This turned out to be an important moment in the race, because the peloton thought it was enough and then let it go. The lead of Van Aert, Simmons and Fuglsang rose to more than one and a half minutes: the flight of the day had finally left.

Van Aert, Simmons and Fuglsang on an adventure
The three front runners started the first climb of the day in the French Ardennes after 88 kilometers of racing. On the flanks of the Côte des Mazures, Van Aert experienced a moment of stress: the Belgian wearer of the yellow jersey was struggling with a shifting problem, but was able to remedy the problem himself and soon drove back to his fellow refugees. At the top of this fourth category climb, Simmons took the full loot in mountain points. The peloton, now led by the men of UAE Emirates, came over the top of this slope with a gap of more than two minutes.

Van Aert and Simmons on their way to Longwy – photo: Cor Vos

The leading group ran even further in the following kilometers and with 115 kilometers to go, Van Aert, Fuglsang and Simmons had a four-minute lead over the peloton. UAE Emirates was still responsible for the bulk of the work in the pursuit, but Tadej Pogačar’s squad got help at one point from… Guillaume Van Keirsbulck of Alpecin-Deceuninck. In short, the Belgian formation of the Roodhooft brothers still had ambitions for the stage victory. With Jasper Philipsen, who has been close a few times in this Tour, or with Mathieu van der Poel?

Van Aert on a hopeless mission?
At the start of the last hundred kilometers – with BORA-hansgrohe – a third team decided to pick up the gauntlet in pursuit of the three escapees. With united forces, the peloton came closer and closer: at eighty kilometers from the finish, the difference was less than three minutes. Van Aert, Simmons and Fuglsang meanwhile reached the town of Carignan, where the riders were treated to the intermediate sprint. As expected, Van Aert scored the most points, twenty to be exact, so that he once again did excellent business in the battle for the green points jersey.

Two minutes later the peloton was also fighting for the remaining points: Philipsen took 13 points away from Fabio Jakobsen (11 points) and Christophe Laporte (10 points). In the rush of the race we saw only two front runners. Fuglsang clearly had no faith in a good outcome and decided to wait for the peloton after a bathroom break. Van Aert and Simmons had to get it together in the remaining 60 kilometers, which was no mean feat against a chasing peloton, led by BORA-hansgrohe, Alpecin-Deceuninck, UAE Emirates and EF Education-EasyPost.

In the peloton it was all hands on deck – photo: Cor Vos

Unchained Van Aert says goodbye to Simmons
The two brave escapees seemed to be on a hopeless mission, as the lead was reduced further and further. With thirty kilometers to go, Van Aert and Simmons were one minute ahead of the pack. The latter was clearly on the gums and had to let an unleashed Van Aert drive on a sloping strip: the yellow jersey wearer was so completely on his own. A fine number from Van Aert, but the Jumbo-Visma driver still had to cover 25 kilometers solo on the way to the finish. This seemed like a bridge too far, but with a Van Aert in super shape you always have to speak with two words.

In the meantime, new strengths were tapped into the peloton: we saw Filippo Ganna take the lead and the men of Cofidis also got involved in the pursuit. With the start of the last twenty kilometers Van Aert’s lead, who lost some of his feathers, had meanwhile shrunk to good forty seconds. There were still twenty seconds left at the foot of the Côte de Montigny-sur-Chiers. This turned out not to be enough even for the man of the first Tour week and so Van Aert was caught with twelve kilometers on the counter.

Brave Van Aert does not make it, race explodes on Côte de Pulventeux
In the run-up to the penultimate climb on the route, the particularly steep Côte de Pulventeux (800 meters at 12%), the peloton was startled by a crash by Reinardt Janse van Rensburg and Kobe Goossens, among others. However, the classification riders managed to stay out of the danger zone and so we started the deep final with a compact but also strongly thinned out peloton. There was no longer any question of Van der Poel in the suit: the Dutchman no longer insisted and chose his own pace. Not much later, the light went out at tastemaker Van Aert, who thus gave up the yellow.

Alexis Vullermoz tried in the final – photo: Cor Vos

In the first group it was now all hands: due to the drumming and croaking, several riders were knocked down again. The biggest victim was undoubtedly Aleksandr Vlasov: the classification leader of BORA-hansgrohe was so suddenly dependent on chasing, just as the riders started the steep pentes of the Côte de Pulventeux. On this slope Alexis Vuillermoz decided to throw the bat into the henhouse. The Frenchman of TotalEnergies made a gap, but at the top of the Pulventeux appeared to be joined by Pogačar, who had counterattacked.

Superior Pogačar is way too strong for the competition
However, the two-time Tour winner failed to get to Vuillermoz and then kept quiet, which played into the latter’s hand. Vuillermoz, winner of the Tour stage to Mûr-de-Bretagne in 2015, kept a limited lead in the descending kilometers to the final climb and started first on the 1.6 kilometer long final slope. Vuillermoz was strong, but not strong enough to stay out of the grip of a first elite group of about thirty riders. UAE Emirates then took the lead from Pogačar. It was up to Brandon McNulty to put off his Slovenian leader as best as possible for the final sprint.

However, it was Primož Roglič who was the first to start the sprint with just 400 meters to go, with Pogačar in the wheel. However, the latter had everything under control, waited patiently for his moment and managed to get out with a mighty sprint. Pogačar eventually won the sprint with apparent ease, ahead of Michael Matthews and David Gaudu. Tom Pidcock and Nairo Quintana rounded out the top-5. Pogačar was good for a double at the finish, as he also managed to take over the yellow leader’s jersey from Van Aert.

The new yellow jersey wearer – photo: Cor Vos