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Tour St.6 Preview: Norman Coastal Romp

Mike Powell/Getty Images

Stage 6: Abbeville -- Le Havre, 191.5km

The Tour de France slowly starts turning south, but it'll be a while before we get to the Pyrénées. So look busy.

About Le Havre and the Normandy Coast

Still located in the far north of France, the race departs from the Somme region and spends most of the day in Normandy. By the way, the name Normandy corresponds to the historic Duchy of Normandy. In 1956, France reorganized it into two separate departments, but starting next year it's back to a single administrative entity. And not for nothing -- the area is a hotbed of foreign invasion, starting with the Vikings and continuing on with Celts and Romans, and turning the tables with its own conquest in 1066 of England. The region even has its own language, and towns dot the map with the odd Norse names. Most Americans know Normandy for the D-Day invasion by Allied forces of the European continent in 1944. Those battles took place west of Le Havre, though one wing of the invasion force landed pretty close by.

AmyBC's food and drink pairings:

Drink: 3 Monts Beer The internet tells me that is a Bière de Garde style beer brewed by Brasserie De Saint-Sylvestre in Saint Sylvestre Cappel, France. The producer has this to say:

Light golden beer (8.5 % alc./vol.) A wonderful return to nature, with a flavour of yesteryear, this is a beer that is drawn from wooden barrels to fill so many mugs in our Flemish bars !Brewed by infusion with strong and hearty Flemish hops, then fermented using top yeasts, 3 Monts is perfectly balanced between malt aroma, fruity flavours and bitterness.

Food: More cheese indeed, but this a longtime favorite of mine: Brillat Savarin cheese From is a triple cream dessert cheese that was created by cheese-maker Henri Androuët in the 1930s. It is named after 19th century gastronome and epicure, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. Classified as a triple cream cheese, Brillat-Savarin has a fat content of at least 75% achieved by adding rich, luscious cream to whole milk.

Stage Details

The Tour goes rolls up and down all day as it largely hugs the Atlantic coast.

Stage 6 profile Tour 2015

Hey... what's that little thing at the end? A... mountaintop finish?

Stage 6 final kms

Hm, maybe more like a hilltop. Still... Da map:

Stage 6 map Tour 2015

It's fair to call this a transition stage, even though it has plenty of its own history to tell.

Course Analysis

It's another day like the ones before and after... with a twist. That last 1.5km, despite representing less than 1% of the race, will shape the entire stage. Sprint teams will mostly decide not to bother, though I can think of a few who might remain interested. A separate set of stage hunters will move to the fore. And all of that may be for naught, if there simply isn't enough interest in chasing the day's break, what with actual sprint stages happening the day before and the day after.

191km is a long day out, particularly moving up and down the contours of a rugged coastline. And that's before we take into account strong winds out of the west, forecast to be up to 25mph on Thursday. If the stage is gently raced, nobody will pay too steep a penalty, but the crosswinds effect could easily break up the peloton at speeds like that.

The race finishes atop the 7% Côte d'Ingouville, which won't eliminate anyone but will reshuffle the stage-winners deck. This is a pure power climb, not the Mur de Huy revisited. If the peloton enters Le Havre intact, a lot of riders will take a shot here.


General Classification

Maillot Jaune Tour

Nothing of great interest, as the Côte d'Ingouville isn't a place to put time into your rivals. If Tony Martin still has yellow, he may find his lead threatened a bit today. As I mentioned above, guys looking to just get through the day will need to pay close attention to crosswinds, which could wreak havoc on the peloton.

Points Competition

Maillot Vert

Potentially pivotal if Sagan can contest the race at the end, where he will be on the receiving end of a nice gift of points. This is one of those stages where it seems like he alone can make all the difference. Not that he won't have company, but it won't be Greipel.

King of the Mountains

Maillot a Pois

Minimal points today. If a break gets away you could and probably should see a new leader. And I want it to be Mark Cavendish.

Young Rider

Maillot Blanc

Moar Sagan.

Look, it's a bit silly previewing the white jersey effects from stage to stage, early on in the race. Basically nobody is fighting for the jersey now, it just lands on someone who was born after the cutoff. Everyone is just doing their job. In the third week you will see riders showing interest in keeping it or taking it, but til then I'll just give some prediction of which young riders might benefit from the stage, intentionally or not.

Stage Favorites

Did the Tour just design an entire race around a single rider, Greg Van Avermaet? I guess it's a little short and not quite as bumpy a ride, but if you like the Tour of Flanders, you'll probably like this stage.

What? There isn't a single cobble on this road! you say. True, but of the Tour de France field, your stage hunters consist of pure sprinters, pure climbers, time triallists and classics riders. This course favors that last category above all else, and finishes with a not terribly significant incline. It's more uphill sprint than anything else.

And the guys I can see winning here are the fast finishers from the Tour of Flanders. Van Avermaet in particular, but also Sagan, Alexander Kristoff, Zdenek Stybar, Geraint Thomas, maybe Degenkolb, maybe Kwiatkowski, definitely Edvald Boasson Hagen, and for sure one complete freak of nature... my pick to win... Alejandro Valverde.