The peloton is still recovering from Stage 5 of the 2014 Tour de France, a brutal 152.5-kilometre affair over the cobblestones of Roubaix in pouring rain. Event organisers showed mercy to the pack, as Stage 6 will be a routine flat stage that will most likely end in another mass sprint.
Arras-to-Reims is a Tour classic, starting and finishing in two of France's most historic cities and crossing the beautiful country roads of northern France in between.
Bad weather conditions might bring more chaos and carnage with it, but overall, Thursday's stage should give the riders a chance to catch their breath and prepare for the Tour's second week as we head for the Alps.
Date: Thursday 10 July
Distance: 194 km
TV info and live stream: NBCSN (for U.S. viewers) and ITV4 (for U.K. viewers) will be broadcasting every stage of the 2014 Tour de France, with mobile coverage available via NBC Sports' Live Extra and the ITV Player app.
|2014 Tour de France General Classification (Yellow Jersey)|
|1||Vincenzo Nibali||Astana||20h 26' 46''|
|2||Jakob Fuglsang||Astana||20h 26' 48''|
|3||Peter Sagan||Cannondale||20h 27' 30''|
|4||Michal Kwiatkowski||O.Ph-Q-Step||20h 27' 36''|
|5||Fabian Cancellara||Trek||20h 28' 03''|
|6||Jurgen Van Den Broeck||Lotto-Belisol||20h 28' 31''|
|7||Tony Gallopin||Lotto-Belisol||20h 28' 31''|
|8||Richie Porte||Team Sky||20h 28' 40''|
|9||Andrew Talansky||Garmin-Sharp||20h 28' 51''|
|10||Alejandro Valverde||Movistar||20h 28' 57''|
|2014 Tour de France Points Classification (Green Jersey)|
|1||Peter Sagan||Cannondale||185 pts|
|2||Marcel Kittel||Giant-Shimano||135 pts|
|3||Bryan Coquard||Europcar||121 pts|
|4||Alexander Kristoff||Katusha||82 pts|
|5||Vincenzo Nibali||Astana||53 pts|
|6||Mark Renshaw||O.Ph.-Q-Step||50 pts|
|7||Arnaud Demare||FDJ.fr||44 pts|
|8||Greg Van Avermaet||BMC Racing||42 pts|
|9||Ramunas Navardauskas||Garmin-Sharp||42 pts|
|10||Michal Kwiatkowski||O.Ph.-Q-Step||40 pts|
|2014 Tour de France Mountain Classification (Polka-Dot Jersey)|
|2||Blel Kadri||AG2R La Mondiale||5|
|9||David de la Cruz Melgarejo||NetApp-Endura||2|
|10||Chris Froome||Team Sky||1|
The race will start in Arras' Grand'Place, with the peloton spending most of the day headed in a southern direction. Via two Category 4 climbs (Cote de Coucy-le-Chateau-Auffrique and Cote de Roucy) and a quick sprint in Pinon, the journey will end in the historic city of Reims.
The race profile, courtesy of Defiende El Maillot:
The Cote de Roucy will give the more adventurous riders a chance to get ahead of the peloton and avoid a mass sprint, but it might be too far away from the actual finish line in Reims, at 37 kilometres.
Given Wednesday's chaotic race, chances are the peloton will prefer to take a day off and not chase any breakaways too fiercely. If that's the case, a 37-kilometre time trial will take the riders from the foot of Cote de Roucy to Reims and eternal glory.
Once again, the peloton is helped by France's wide-open countryside, and with rain and winds playing a massive role on Wednesday, the top riders will prefer to shelter in the belly of the pack.
Contenders for the main awards have been dropping like flies, with Chris Froome the latest casualty, via Sky Sports News:
The peloton seemed very nervous on Wednesday, and while the cobblestones and wet conditions certainly played their part, the riders for the general classification are expected to be very careful in the lead-up to the first mountain stages.
Vincenzo Nibali has a stranglehold on the yellow jersey, so Astana will likely spend much of their time near the front of the race. Risk-takers such Thomas Voeckler will be eyeing this stage, but a mass sprint is still the most likely outcome.
Peter Sagan has been steadily growing during the first week of the Tour, and as a Classic specialist, he traditionally is able to recover better from heavy stages like Wednesday's than the rest of the sprinters would.
Fans shouldn't look past the dominance of Marcel Kittel, however, and his Giant-Shimano team-mates did an excellent job guiding him through the treacherous cobbles of Roubaix. The German should be rested for this stage, which could be the final chance the sprinters have ahead of the Alps.
Expect Kittel and Sagan to battle it out, with the early option on the green jersey at stake.
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