Lutsenko claims 1st Tour de France victory on Stage 6

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A woman waves a French flag as the pack rides during the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 191 kilometers from Le Teil to Mt. Aigoual, France, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

MONT AIGOUAL, France (AP) — Kazakh rider Alexey Lutsenko earned his first stage victory in his fifth Tour de France with a solo effort up Mont Aigoual on Thursday, and Adam Yates of Britain kept the overall race lead.

Yates and the Tour’s top contenders were still racing far behind the 27-year-old Lutsenko on the mountain when he crossed the line at the top with towering views of southern France. He had scouted out the final steep climb in advance of the stage, and used that knowledge to his advantage.

“I gave my upmost in the steepest section,” he said. “In my head, I was convinced I was going to make it.”

Among the overall contenders, there were no changes at the top. Yellow-jersey wearer Yates is still three seconds ahead of Primoz Roglic from Slovenia. Another Slovene, Tadej Pogacar, is third, seven seconds behind Yates.

“All in all a good day,” Yates said.

Yates was wearing the iconic yellow jersey for the first time Thursday. He inherited it from Julian Alaphilippe on Wednesday after the French rider was handed a time penalty that stripped him of the race lead. Alaphilippe broke racing rules by taking a drinks bottle near the end of Stage 5, a violation for which he was docked 20 seconds, putting Yates in yellow. Yates is the ninth Briton to wear the famed jersey since the first, Tom Simpson, wore it for a day in 1962.

But Alaphilippe showed that he still has fight by sprinting ahead of other top riders as they rode in together in a group at the top of Mont Aigoual, clawing back one of the seconds he lost. The top contenders’ bunch crossed the 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 likely to finish with a bunch sprint and no changes among the overall contenders unless they suffer a mishap on the 168-kilometer (104-mile) route. The top riders may be more willing to go toe-to-toe when the roads go sharply uphill again this weekend in the Pyrenees.

“It’s going to be really tough,” Yates said.

Lutsenko was among a group of eight breakaway riders that surged ahead of the main pack on the 191-kilometer (119-mile) Stage 6. The stage sped southwest from the start town of Le Teil in southern France.

Lutsenko, riding for the Astana team, shook off his breakaway companions on the day’s punishing final climb, up to the Lusette pass, scaled for the first time by the 117-year-old Tour.

He started the stage in 37th place overall, nearly six minutes behind Yates. Since Lutsenko was not a threat for the yellow jersey, Yates, his team and other top riders were content to let the breakaway riders race off ahead.

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