Tour de France 2022 stage six preview – the longest stage

The 2022 Tour de France hits punchier terrain, starting in Belgium then crossing into France for the first uphill finish of the race in Longwy

Tour de France 2022, stage six
Distance: 219.9km
Start location: Binche
Finish location: Longwy

Start time: 11.05 BST
Finish time (approx): 16.15 BST

Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban was a French military engineer and architect, perhaps the greatest there ever was, who was one of the favourites of France’s most illustrious monarch, Louis XIV. Vauban left a tangible legacy in France: a chain of citadels, fortresses and defensive structures, many still standing, that almost encircle the country - Louis XIV described it as a “ring of iron”.

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Vauban’s fortifications are dotted around the western and northern coasts, from Bayonne in the Basque Country to Calais, but the greatest concentration exists along France’s north-eastern border, from Gravelines just next to Dunkirk, to Strasbourg in Alsace. They are huge and imposing: the Citadels further south in the Alpine cities of Briançon and Grenoble tower above the surrounding valleys. They also worked: there was a saying, “Town built by Vauban: impregnable. Town not built by Vauban: taken.” The works were a statement of military doughtiness, but also of French territorial integrity. 

Vauban knew a thing or two about both attack and defence, and he well understood the strategic significance of the hill which towers over the lower town of Longwy, where stage six of the 2022 Tour de France finishes. The hexagonal fortress he built on it was a centre of resistance after Napoléon’s defeat at Waterloo, and was not taken, despite heavy bombardment, during the 1871 Franco-German war. It was also the site of heroic defence when Germany invaded France through Belgium and Luxembourg in the early years of World War I. These days, it is chiefly invaded only by tourists, as it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Tour makes its second visit in recent years, following Longwy’s appearance in 2017. The town was a fixture on the route between 1911 and 1914, but from the end of the Great War to 2017’s visit, there was only one more stage finish there, in 1982. Defence won the day the last time around: Peter Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team helped shut down the attacks and the Slovakian world champion was the strongest in the uphill sprint to the fort. This time around, the Tour’s route designer Thierry Gouvenou has introduced a more complicated run-in. With 15km to go, there’s a fourth-category climb, the Côte de Montigny-sur-Chiers, there’s a tricky uncategorised climb immediately afterwards, and then the third-category Côte de Pulventeux, the first cat-three of the 2022 Tour, which tops out just 5.3km from the finish. The final ascent up the Côte des Religieuses, is not categorised, but the road climbs for a mile to the line and peaks at 11 per cent. Gouvenou must be hoping that the defences of the stronger teams may be less impregnable than the walls of the Longwy Citadel.

Tour de France 2022 Stage six map and profile

Tour de France 2022 stage six profile

This stage is the longest of the 2022 Tour de France and is expected to be attritional and demanding, especially after the peloton's exploits on the cobbles the day before. The distance isn't the only challenging aspect of the stage, either, as the rolling roads of the Belgium Ardennes are well known to be tough on the legs.

Three categorised climbs as the peloton skirts into France towards the end of the stage are going to give a platform for the puncheurs to shine: the Mur de Pulventeux, situated 6km from the finish (800m long and averaging 12%) will be a springboard for attacks, while the Côte des Religieuses will decide who takes the stage win.Tour de France 2022 stage six map

Tour de France 2022 stage six predictions and contenders

Be it in sprint finishes, cobbles, time trials, there’s one man who has constantly found himself as a pre-race favourite before all of the stages in the Tour so far and stage six’s punchy, uphill finish is no exception. He goes by the name of Wout van Aert, and could be exceptionally well-suited to the gradients of the Côte des Religieuses. He rode away from the bunch on stage four on a similar climb to a solo stage win, proving his ability on steep terrain. However, this day will also be one where the GC contenders need to stay alert, so Van Aert could be held back to help his teammates, Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard to ensure they don’t lose any time.

Image: SWpix/Zac Williams

When Van Aert launched his attack on stage four, Ineos Grenadiers’ Adam Yates was one of the few riders able to stick to the Belgian’s wheel and could also perform well on this stage. His teammate Daniel Martínez was also hot on his heels, but, as with Wout van Aert, it will depend if the Grenadiers are given the freedom to fight for stage wins themselves. 

With this in mind, it may be that riders who aren’t protecting big GC contenders have a better chance of winning today. AG2R Citroën Team’s Benoît Cosnefroy finished second in both Brabantse Pijl and the Amstel Gold Race earlier this season, both races with a similar punchy finishing circuit as we will see on stage six of this year’s Tour. 

Another rider who can perform well on hard, short climbs is La Flèche Wallonne winner Dylan Teuns. The Bahrain - Victorious rider has a strong team behind him if he is given the freedom to go for the stage with the likes of Matej Mohorič and Fred Wright also both adept at climbing on this sort of terrain.

Michael Woods of Israel Premier-Tech is another rider who could enjoy the steep slopes of the Côte des Religieuses, as is Ruben Guerreiro of EF Education-EasyPost. Largely, though, it will depend on if the breakaway of the day is allowed enough time to go to the finish, or if the GC teams will hope to control things for a showdown on the final climb.

Image: James Startt

With stage seven finishing up La Planche des Belle Filles on the following day, we will have to wait and see if the likes of Tadej Pogačar will save themselves for then, or if they will light things up on stage six. Another GC contender who will also favour this short, steep terrain is BORA-Hansgrohe’s Aleksandr Vlasov. He finished third in La Flèche Wallonne earlier this season and could go for the stage win if he finds himself in with a chance to the finish. 

Although he’s had a quiet start to this year’s Tour and is yet to come into the shape he would hope, this is a stage tailor made for Alpecin-Deceuninck's Mathieu van der Poel. The Dutch rider has a kick that is hard to match when he is on his day on steep inclines, but he’s in unpredictable form at the moment.

Should the final climbs be ridden conservatively by the bunch, sprinters such as Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) and Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) have a chance of making it to the final drag to the line too. 

Prediction

This stage is a tricky one to predict, it could be that the breakaway is given a chance to go to the line, or the GC contenders may want to use this as an opportunity to attempt to gain time back on Tadej Pogačar following his domination on the cobblestones the day before. 

We’re expecting a reduced bunch kick between the puncheurs of the peloton and we’re backing outsider Benoît Cosnefroy to take the win.

Cover image: SWpix/Zac Williams