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Bakelants Leads, Stetina Defends: Tour de l'Avenir Stage 6

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American Peter Stetina held his second place in the general classification in today's crono at the Tour de l'Avenir. The current U23 national champion in the discipline, Stetina finished 17th on today's stage, 1.06 down on the winner, Rein Taaramae of Estonia. Jan Bakelants of Belgian retained his lead in the general classification. After today's ride which gained him just over 30 seconds, Bakelants leads Stetina by 1.39. Jérôme Coppel of France moved up to third in the general, trailing the race leader by just over 3 minutes.

Race reportagery on the flip.

Today's stage 6 individual time trial covered 21 kilometers around Blaye-les-Mines. The mostly flat course favored the specialists, and the top riders averaged just over 40km/hr. The best time of the day came from Estonian Rein Taaramae, who stomped through the course in 29 minutes, 13 seconds. Taaramae's stellar crono moved him up in the general to 5th, 3.48 down on the Belgian Jan Bakelants.

French rider Jérôme Coppel began the day as a favorite to win the stage. Coppel won both the U23 road race and the U23 time trial national championships last year in France. His mentor is Marc Madiot, and already, many expect big things from Coppel. But that is for the future. In today's stage, he started after Taaramae had finished, and hoped to surpass the Estonian's time. He came close. In the end, only 4 seconds separated Coppel from the stage win. The French rider did succeed in climbing to third in the general classification, a position he will likely defend through to Sunday, when the race concludes.

Rui Costa of Portugal finished third on the stage, just 7 seconds behind Coppel. Costa now sits 6th in the general classification. Andreï Amador finished on same time with the Portuguese rider, and was placed fourth on the stage.

American Peter Stetina successfully defended his second place in the general classification, though he lost about 30 seconds to current race leader Bakelants. Stetina finished 17th on the stage at 1.06 down on Taaramae. His team-mate, Tejay Van Garderen finished 20th on the stage at 1.14, with Thomas Peterson right behind him in 21st at same time. Van Garderen now sits 8th in the general classification. A close race still exists among the riders placed 3rd through 8th, with only 1.00 separating them. A good ride from Van Garderen in the coming days could very well see him climb back into the top five, though the podium might be a stretch. Thomas Peterson sits 19th at 5.02 in the general classification.

Tomorrow's Stage 7 is a bumpy affair, running between Saint-Juéry and Revel, and finishing on a 2.8 kilometer climb, whose average gradient tilts up at 5.4%. It looks like great territory for the escapists, though certainly the Belgian, American, and French teams will be working to ensure that no one causes any upsets. The sprinters may have trouble with this finish, but at 5.4%, the climb isn't especially steep. The general classification should not change significantly, though certainly this stage offers opportunity for an ambitious and crafty rider to improve his placing.

For complete results, see the Official Site.

Coverage at contributed to this post.