Teuns wins Tour de France Stage 6, Ciccone takes race lead

Teuns wins Tour de France Stage 6, Ciccone takes race lead
Belgium's Dylan Teuns celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 160 kilometers (100 miles) with start in Mulhouse and finish in La Planche des Belles Filles, France, Thursday, July 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

CHAMPAGNEY, France (AP) — Two Tour de France rookies stole the show on the first mountain stage, with Dylan Teuns of Belgium winning Stage 6 and Giulio Ciccone of Italy taking the overall race lead on Thursday.

Teuns and Ciccone were rewarded for their enterprise and endurance on the terrible climb to the Planche des Belles Filles ski station in the woody Vosges mountains of eastern France. Some riders were so exhausted at the top that race workers had to help them stay upright on their bikes after they crossed the line.

Teuns and Ciccone, both racing their first Tour, were part of a breakaway of 14 riders that sped away from the pack early in the 160.5-kilometer (100-mile) trek. By the end, at the top of the climb, they were the last two survivors of that group, fighting head-to-head for the win.

Ciccone cracked first on the final 24% incline, as Teuns cranked on ahead of him to the line.

But Ciccone got a delightful consolation prize, in the shape of the yellow jersey.

“It’s an incredible day. I can’t grasp what’s happening,” the Italian said.

The previous wearer of the iconic shirt, French rider Julian Alaphilippe, did everything he could to keep it, battling behind up the ascent, through clouds of dust kicked up by Teuns and Ciccone on a section without tarmac.

But Alaphilippe fell just six seconds short, losing the race lead he first took on Stage 3.

The severity of the climb turned out to be a revealing gauge of the fitness of some of the top Tour contenders who will battle for the race lead on even tougher climbs to come in the Alps and Pyrenees.

Geraint Thomas, the defending champion, rode strongly on the final incline, getting ahead of his teammate Egan Bernal.

“A decent day,” Thomas said.

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