The summit finish at La Planche des Belle Filles continued to be a happy hunting ground for Team Ineos on stage 6 of the Tour de France. While the team may not have won or taken the race lead on the Vosges mountain, as both Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins have done in the past, they still walked away with a positive outcome – especially for ‘co-leader’ Geraint Thomas.
On the ‘Super Planche’, the regular summit enhanced by the addition of 900 metres of steep gravel road, it was the reigning champion who stamped his authority on the GC battle, surging from the lead group in the closing metres to take time on all of his rivals for the yellow jersey – including teammate Egan Bernal.
“Surprised? It’s a good surprise, I would say,” directeur sportif Nicolas Portal said after the finish. “I was hoping for that; all of us could see that Geraint was doing well from the start of the Tour.
“In the team time trial, he was super, super strong. And yesterday I saw on the last climb when it was really fast that he was OK when all of the GC guys were suffering.”
Pre-race expectations were that Bernal would be the Team Ineos leader more suited to the steep slopes of the La Planche’s final kilometres, but it was instead Thomas who powered away on the tarmac section before the final corner.
He would finish fourth on the stage, 1:44 down on stage winner Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida), but led the GC group home, and took back nine seconds on Bernal, who had gained five seconds on stage 3 in Épernay. The move was indicative of his overall form going forward, said Portal.
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