Fabio Aru surprised us all at the tail end of Stage 5, attacking on the La Planche des Belles Filles climb and showing stunning form as he opened up enough of a gap on a depleted lead group to take the stage win. He looked every inch the Astana leader he’d set out to be on this tour, recreating the win on the same climb by Vincenzo Nibali, three years ago. We’ll soon see if Aru can keep this up for the whole tour, but he certainly showed a strong hand when others were revealing less power in the legs than they might have liked (Contador and Quintana both have a lot to prove). Dan Martin took second for Quick-Step, and Chris Froome took third — and pinched the Yellow Jersey off his teammate Geraint Thomas’s shoulders as he went. It remains to be seen if Sky can hold on to yellow for the entire three weeks.
On to Stage 6, and we’re back into sprint territory — though minus two of the best sprinters in the field. After a hideously messy sprint on Stage 4 that saw Arnaud Démare scrape ahead for his first Tour de France stage win, Mark Cavendish was a non-starter ahead of La Planche des Belles Filles, and Peter Sagan has been disqualified by the race referees. This has obviously proven a controversial decision, and there’s enough digital ill being spilt over it without us waging in with our views, but we’re obviously sorry to see both of them out of the race — even though it leaves the contest for the Green Jersey wide open.
Assuming the sprint is a little more straightforward this time, the sensible money would go on either Marcel Kittel or Arnaud Démare here. Démare is the current jersey wearer, and will be therefore be additionally motivated on the run-in to Troyes. It would also be unfair to say he was simply lucky not to be caught up in the crash on Stage 4 (as was Kittel); Démare’s shown good consistency so far, coming in second on Stage 2 behind Kittel. We’d also point to André Greipel, who has taken third in both sprints so far, and, whilst so far remaining a little quieter, has always been placed well. Alexander Kristoff was way down on Stage 2, but managed an impressive second place on Stage 4. With Sagan and Cav out of the runnings, Katusha might just get the look in that they want, and it could be podium again for Kristoff.
Whilst the sensible money is split between the Kittel/Démare showdown, there’s perhaps more fun to be had with the pairing of Michael Matthews and Nacer Bouhanni. Both have similar styles of sprinting on the flat (though Matthews prefers things ramping upwards a little), and it’ll be interesting to see who gets the better of the other here. So far the Australian has been beaten twice, but knowing there are two fewer sprinters in the field will motivate him. Matthews might even be a decent outsider for the podium here.
Alright, time to roll the dice. We’re going with the in-form and motivated Démare here, but it’ll be closer.