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Tough battle for Dimension Data in TDF

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Africa’s Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were unable to propel their rider Tom-Jelte Slagter into the top 10 in stage six of the Tour de France on Thursday.

Dan Martin (UAE-Emirates) powered his way to the stage victory. Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale) finished in second place and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) rounded out the stage podium.

The stage took the riders from Brest to Mur de Bretagne over a 181km route. The famed Mur de Bretagne climb would be completed twice, with a 16km circuit bringing the stage to a close.

The stage started off in standard fashion with an early breakaway group in the opening kilometre which gained a 10-minute lead.

Quickstep-Floors then set the race alight with around 100km still to go, putting the peloton in the gutter when reaching a crosswind section in the stage.

Initially the peloton split into three distinct groups because of the crosswinds but the panic did not last long. As the wind died down, so did the injection of pace and it all came back together.

The excitement did result in the breakaway losing most of their advantage though and that set the stage up nicely for the showdown around the Mur de Bretagne circuit.

From 50km to go, Team Dimension Data were on song and at the head of the peloton. Mark Cavendish, Julien Vermote and Mark Renshaw did much of the early pace-setting leading into the first ascent of the Mur de Bretagne.

The African team was riding to position Slagter for the final, the Dutchman being their protected rider for the stage. The early break was swallowed up with 16km to go, as the race went over the famous 2km climb for the first time and through the finish line, they’d be sprinting for next time around.

Reinardt Janse van Rensburg and Edvald Boasson Hagen remained with Slagter, keeping him at the head of the peloton around the fast and flowing circuit, when the battle for position was fierce.

As the final climb approached, Janse van Rensburg led the peloton onto its lower slopes before Boasson Hagen took over with just less than 2km to go. It was very much the perfect leadout onto the climb by the African outfit.

As the gradient started to show its teeth though, the main GC contenders came to the fore. Martin put in a telling attack after passing the 1km to go banner, one which looked optimistic at first but the Irishman soon showed the excellent form he is in, by opening the gap. Latour tried to respond, whilst the remnants of the main group trailed. Martin was too good and took the victory.

Slagter was able to hang with the best but not better them, finishing in a select group of GC contenders in 29th on the stage and 12 seconds behind Martin.

Dimension Data’s Julien Vermote gave his take on the day’s action: ‘As planned, we took it on from after the intermediate sprint.

‘It was necessary to be in front there because afterwards the roads were really narrow and twisty, so we brought our guys already into a perfect position for the first time up Mur de Bretagne.

‘We survived the climb with the riders that we wanted to be in the final, so we were able to drop Tom-Jelte off in the perfect position to the foot of the final climb.’


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