Tour de France 2015: Lanterne Rouge - stage six
Michele Scarponi finished more than six minutes behind a crash-hit peloton in Le Havre, while Michael Matthews rides on bravely, more than an hour behind leader in absentia, Tony Martin
Michele Scarponi has been, on the occasions we've shared his company, a rider disinclined to taking life too seriously.
On the bike, however, he is businesslike. How then will he respond to the travails of stage six, another beset by crashes and incidents, which saw him cross the line last of the 188 remaining riders?
Scarponi is likely to be of considerable support to team leader Vincenzo Nibali when the race enters the mountains next week. He is battle hardened, an accomplished climber, and while not expected to be the last man at his leader’s side, his experience will be of value.
The Italian says he has no intention of leaving the race and is focussed on playing his part in Sunday’s team time trial.
Astana will require a strong performance, and are well-placed to deliver one. Nibali was fastest of the Fab Four in the opening stage individual test, but despite repeated attacks on the pavé of stage four, was unable to shake Chris Froome (Sky), whom he now trails by 1.38.
Despite limping home on stage six, Scarponi is in no significantly worse position on GC than Astana team-mates Lieuwe Westra, who occupies 106th place, and Tanel Kangert, who is 107th.
Scarponi is 111th, some 26.36 behind leader in absentia, Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep), who crashed out of the race in his first day in the maillot jaune. Such has been the German's fortune at this Tour, twice denied the race lead by the narrowest margins, that if he hadn't had bad luck, he wouldn't have had any luck at all.
Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) remains last overall, 1:01:31 behind Martin, but in contrast to the German is able to continue, despite suffering fractures to two ribs in the mass collision that blighted stage three.
Matthews has a combativity award for his efforts, while Scarponi has only his resolve to call upon. We'll offer a lantern to guide them both through the dark nights that lie ahead.