For the first time in the history of the Tour, the stage ended at the top of Mont Aigoual, a summit of 1,560 meters (5,118 feet) offering a breathtaking view of the south of France and an observatory opened in 1894 for study its changing weather conditions.
The last kilometers (miles) were a climb past pines and pastures until the finish. The relative ease of this final approach deterred the top contenders from tackling each other on Lusette’s steep pass that came before him, as they knew the rivals would be able to catch them to the top.
“It was too far to try anything,” said Frenchman Thibaut Pinot, 12th overall, in a group of top contenders behind Yates by 13 seconds.
But not too far for Lutsenko to make his move.
He had spotted the climb before the stage. He used his knowledge to shake up his fellow breakaways on the 12 kilometer (7 mile) slog with an average gradient of 7% and rhythmic sections increasing by more than 10% and with little room to maneuver on rough asphalt. .
“I gave my maximum in the steeper section,” he said. “In my head, I was convinced I was going to get there.”
Driving for the Astana team, he took the start of the stage in 37th place overall, almost six minutes behind Yates. As he and the other breakaway riders weren’t a threat to the yellow jersey, Yates and other top riders were content to let them take the lead. They did it at a breakneck pace, covering 52 kilometers (32 miles) in the first hour of the race to build their gap.
Hugo Houle of Canada, an Astana team support pilot, finished 59th on the stage. The 29-year-old from Sainte-Perpetue, Que., Is 74th overall.
The overall contenders were still far behind when Lutsenko crossed the finish line. There was no change at the top of the standings. The yellow jersey wearer Yates is still three seconds ahead of Primoz Roglic of Slovenia. Another Slovenian, Tadej Pogacar, is third, seven seconds behind Yates.
“Overall a good day,” Yates said.
Yates wore the iconic yellow jersey for the first time on Thursday. He inherited it from Julian Alaphilippe on Wednesday after the French driver was given a time penalty that deprived him of the race lead. Alaphilippe broke the racing rules by taking a drink bottle towards the end of Stage 5, a violation for which he was docked for 20 seconds, putting Yates in yellow. Yates is the ninth Briton to wear the famous jersey since the first, Tom Simpson, wore it for a day in 1962.
But Alaphilippe showed he still struggles by sprinting in front of other top riders as they rolled together in a group atop Mont Aigoual, recouping one of the lost seconds. The field of top contenders crossed the finish line 2 minutes, 53 seconds behind Lutsenko.
With a flat finish after a hilly first half, Stage 7 from Millau to Lavaur on Friday is expected to end with a massive sprint and no change among the overall contenders unless they suffer a crash on the 168 course. kilometers (104 miles). Top runners may be more willing to go from start to finish when the roads climb sharply again this weekend in the Pyrenees.
“It’s going to be really tough,” Yates said.
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The Associated Press