Tour de France 2014: Marcel Kittel can enjoy a drop of Champagne on stage six

 

After the sound and fury of the cobbles of stage five, it is back to more sedate ground for a flat run into the heart of Champagne country.

There are just two fourth-category climbs so the overall race contenders should be content to sit back and watch the fireworks explode ahead of them. While the stage is likely to finish in a bunch sprint, the threat of crosswinds and some tricky bends near the end will give faint hope to the inevitable plucky breakaway.

It is a forlorn hope, though, with Marcel Kittel around. Now that Mark Cavendish is a distant memory, the way appears clear for Kittel.

Though he faced more competition than he has been used to on stage four from Alexander Kristoff and Arnaud Démare, it is clear that the German is several bike lengths ahead of his rivals. Add in the fact that his lead-out train is the best in the race and it becomes hard to look past him for yet another win.

Reims has hosted two Tour de France stage finishes, in 2002 and 2010, and the winners, Robbie McEwen and Alessandro Petacchi, each went on to claim the green sprinter’s jersey in Paris. But with Kittel so dominant in the sprints and Peter Sagan seemingly content to follow in second to secure the points competition, expect that pattern to be broken this year.

Reims is not just a sprinter’s paradise, however. In 1958 the city held the inaugural women’s road World Championships, won by the Luxembourger Elsy Jacobs.

The real Champagne will be on ice until Paris. This is a day for the yellow jersey to hide from trouble.

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