Alexey Lutsenko of Astana on Thursday won stage six of the Tour de France, completing a long breakaway over two mountains in the magnificent Cevennes National Park.
Briton Adam Yates held on to the overall leader’s yellow jersey, despite a dramatic late bid by Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe to snatch it back with a trademark kick to the finish that clawed back a few seconds.
“It went really well, with an escape with big riders we needed to control, but a good day for us,” Yates said.
Alaphilippe lost the yellow jersey to Yates on Wednesday when a late water pickup cost him a 20-second penalty. The Mitchelton-Scott rider admitting he would not have wanted to take the lead in that manner, but that he would defend it with everything he had.
There were no other attempted attacks from among the group of favorites.
“The final ascent is a shallow climb, where you’d waste a lot of energy to gain just a few seconds if you tried anything,” Yates said.
Lutsenko tagged along with an escape group including Olympic champion Greg van Avermaet, who finished third 55 seconds down, with Spaniard Jesus Herrada in second.
“That was the most beautiful win of my career,” said the Kazakh national champion, who has also won a stage of the Vuelta a Espana. “It was important for my team Astana, too.”
Lutsenko made sure he did not falter on the final climb.
“Near the end I knew Herrada couldn’t catch me,” he said.
It was the first stage where the traditional party mood could be detected on the roadside. Most of the signs were in support of Thibaut Pinot, France’s favorite “boy next door.”
Notoriously moody, Pinot stopped to chat with reporters.
“I’m feeling better and better,” said Pinot, who fell hard on the first stage in the rain in Nice.
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