Pauwels, who had signaled his intentions to go on stage six before the Tour de France started, was part of a 14-rider breakaway that went clear in the first ten kilometers of the 165-kilometer stage.
The peloton allowed the group to gain an advantage of more than seven minutes in the first half of the stage, which featured six categorized climbs, including three category one climbs, one of which was the steep summit finish which included a gravel stretch in the last kilometer and brutal gradients of up to 24 percent.
Pauwels’ breakaway cooperated well to maintain their advantage and despite some attacks from the group on the earlier climbs, the breakaway was more or less all together until Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) attacked with 30 kilometers to go, at which point the peloton was five and a half minutes behind.
Pauwels chased from behind in a small group but lost contact when De Gendt was caught and a new four-rider group formed in front 20 kilometers before the finish line, but continued to chase hard and reached the foot of La Planche des Belles Filles just over a minute behind.
The General Classification battled heated up behind with a reduced peloton closing in on the riders in front but it was a day for the breakaway with Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Merida) taking the win over new race leader Guilio Ciccone (Trek Segafredo).
Pauwels was caught by the General Classification riders just under three kilometers to go and crossed the line in 34th place, five minutes behind Teuns.
Quotes from the Finish Line
“This was the first stage that I really hope to be in the breakaway, because I believed that the breakaway could make it to the finish. It was good that I made the good breakaway and it looked like, when we got quite a good advantage, that there was a chance we would make it to the finish. Unfortunately, when it exploded on the second-to-last climb, I was just not strong enough to follow the first four riders. I think I can take a good thing home, the fact that I was at least competitive today after having some trouble with my knee in the last few days. For sure, there are many more chances to come in the next two weeks.”
Tour de France
Stage 6 Mulhouse > La Planche Des Belles Filles
Top 3: 1. Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Merida), 2. Guilo Ciccone (Trek Segafredo), 3. Xander Meurisse (Wanty Groupe Gobert).
CCC Team top 3: 34. Serge Pauwels, 66. Greg Van Avermaet, 115. Joey Rosskopf