Giulio Ciccone misses out on the stage 6 win but overtakes the race lead and best young rider jerseys at the Tour de France.
It was as thrilling as it gets in the first mountain stage at the 2019 Tour de France, with the breakaway contesting the stage win and the GC rivals flexing their muscles in an early climbing test to see who has what it takes.
With Julien Bernard and Giulio Ciccone represented in the day’s large breakaway, and Bauke Mollema giving Richie Porte support amongst the GC contenders behind, Trek-Segafredo had all the angles covered, leaving an exhilarating ending up the brutal La Planche des Belles Filles climb.
One by one the breakaway riders fell off the pace on the brutal slopes of La Planche des Belles Filles, until just Ciccone and Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Merida) remained.
Teuns led over the last few hundred meters with Ciccone glued to his wheel looking ready to pounce, but the last ridiculously steep pitch determined the outcome. Teuns held strong as Ciccone fell away, the piercing gradient too much for the young Italian.
Honestly, in the last climb, I was only thinking about the stage especially when I saw the time and we only had two minutes. That last 100 meters was super hard; I was disappointed to finish second, but now that I have the yellow jersey, it is better. I am very happy.
But all was not over for Ciccone – who struggled to stay upright over the final 75 meters and cross the line for second place – the countdown to the yellow jersey had begun.
From the GC rivals group behind, the yellow jersey-clad Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) attacked, knowing it would be close. Alaphilippe crossed the line in sixth place, and when Ciccone’s time bonuses were factored in, the Quick Step rider was six seconds shy of keeping yellow on his shoulders.
Ciccone had done it.
Most of the GC rivals crossed the line within seconds of each other, perhaps a few cracks were shown but no big damage to classification hopes with many more mountains to come.
Richie Porte arrived in 11th place, successfully passing the first of many hard climbing tests.
To get the yellow is unbelievable, this feeling is crazy. I am 24 and I am here for the experience and now I have the yellow jersey.
Ciccone also leads the Best Young Rider competition but will wear the leader’s jersey in stage seven, and it will be Egan Bernal (Team Ineos), in second, who will sport the white jersey. While in the breakaway, Ciccone also grabbed mountain points on offer and now sits in second place in that competition.
Stage seven will see the longest stage of this year’s race and is expected to end in a bunch finish.
Today with this stage I also started my operation for the mountains jersey, but it’s very hard here as many riders try for this. We will see – today was the first hard stage and we have a lot more coming, but we try for it for sure. Tomorrow is flat, and we can try and keep the yellow jersey, but after, it is all for Richie who is super strong, so we will work for him.