Italy's Lorenzo Bernucci won today's sixth stage of the Tour de France, but the big story was the rise and fall of one Christophe Mengin. His daring breakaway at the 29 kilometer (out of 199) mark was a gutty day at the office. At one point his lead over the field was a fat eight minutes and thirty seconds. But riding so long without a break weakens the mind and the legs. With three kilometers left his lead had dwindled to just ten seconds. But the great thing was, it looked like Mengin just might win. The tight turns and short straights of the final kilometers favored a solo rider. Alas, Mengin was so eager to sprint for the line that he got sloppy. The Frenchmen crashed on the final turn, precipitating a tumultuous pileup that brought most of the peloton to a standstill. As Bernucci deftly steered clear of the carnage (bare-legged riders slamming into, and sliding across, rock solid pavement at 35 mph qualifies as some minor version thereof), Mengin found himself tangled in a steel barricade, unable to stand. He didn't even finish in the top 100. In fact, I'm not sure hard-luck Christophe Mengin finished at all.Just found out that Mengin did finish. "You must take risks to win," he said. "Today I took the risk and lost. I will not be afraid to take the same risks tomorrow or the next day, no matter what the cost." How can you not root for a guy like that?The statement of the day was made T-Mobile's Alexandre Vinokourov, and it was unspoken. He brazenly attacked the peloton with three kilometers to go. This bid for a stage victory came with Lance Armstrong close at hand. Vino gave Armstrong a scare in the mountains two years ago, and seems poised to do the same this year.Armstrong and Vino stood next to one another. When Armstrong asked what they said to one another about the breakaway, his answer was a terse "nothing."As Bjarne Riis predicted this morning, he longed to launch an expendable rider on a breakaway. It's the cycling equivalent of playing long ball. He mentioned Bobby Julich by name as the man who would go. So when Julich went off it came as no surprise. It also came as no surprise to Johann Bruyneel of Discovery Channel, who had George Hincapie poised to be Julich's shadow. The attack fizzled.If you're wondering about those little square boxes on each rider's frame, they're Global Positioning Systems. Each rider's GPS carries his race number. The GPS can show a rider's exact location on the course at all times. That's how the Tour (and television screens) knows the exact distance and time gaps between athletes.Just so you know, only one rider has dropped out of the Tour thus far. That may change tomorrow. That crash was harsh, and a couple riders were seen clutching their collarbones.Craig Hummer and I go way back. We once weathered a hurricane together. If he told me that some aspect of my writing could use a polish, I'd listen. Maybe. Anyway, I stand close when he does most of his post-race Lance Armstrong interviews, and it's like Hummer is Armstrong's lap dog. There's no such thing as a tough question when they talk, and even less focus on some sort of gritty reportage. It would be one thing if Hummer were working for Channel 59 in Dubuque (or, for that matter, competitor.com), but he represents the sole American broadcast outlet with exclusive access to the world's greatest bike racer. I don't honestly believe the problem lies with Hummer, who is a solid journalist. Rather, I get the feeling the corporate guys at Outdoor Life Network are terrified of making Lance the slightest bit peevish. OLN needs Lance (Survivor isn't going to save that network, and neither is the regular menu of bull riding and bait fishing). He's their franchise. One wonders how they're going to troll for ratings once Lance has retired.Along those lines, I was thinking once again about Lance's curious maneuver of wearing his Discovery Channel jersey to the starting line when he should have worn the maillot jaune. As my colleague, Ric Lacivitas, pointed out, Lance has learned how to control the peloton. Day by day, no matter how greatly they dislike it, the entire Tour de France field knows that they either do Lance's bidding (if a rider, for instance, is passing through his hometown, he must ask permission to ride ahead and say hello before rejoining the peloton) or they will be punished (such as last year, when Lance personally quashed a breakaway which contained a man who had been unloyal. Such a maneuver is almost unheard of by a man wearing the yellow jersey). Now, riding his last year and having nothing to lose, Lance is exerting quiet control over not just the peloton, but the entire Tour. Wearing the Discovery jersey was a way of quieting those who said Zabriskie wouldn't have crashed if a policeman hadn't gotten in his way. It not only shut them up, it had the advantage of making Lance appear selfless and it made people think he actually cared whether or not Dave Zabriskie likes him (there's been a lot of talk around here abot the conflicts between Lance and his former lieutenants like Zabriskie, Levi Leipheimer, Tom Boonen, and Floyd Landis). The bottom line is that Lance came here to win. If he can control the tempo of events and minimize distractions, it only makes his job easier.The locals put on a strong showing for the pre- and post-race buffet today. This morning it was andouillet sausage in a champagne/sausage cream sauce (I was scared, because it looked like something the cat threw up. But after a plate I had to curb my longings to go back for seconds), gooey stinky Camembert, hard bread, and coffee. The food in Nancy was a weird combination of apple tarts and some sort of liver gelatin spread (no bread, strangely). It was all very fortifying.Tomorrow we go to Germany. I've never been, and am quite enthusiastic about the prospect. The start is in the French town of Luneville. There will be a moment of silence for the London victims, then the racers begin a 228.5 km ride across the Rhine to Karlruhe. It all sounds very beautiful, historic, and faintly martial, but my Tour history book glosses over any uncomfortable aspects of the tetchy Alsace-Lorraine disputes between Germany and France that have led to three conflicts. All the book says is that Karlsruhe was built in the shape of a star, and that the local specialties are sausage, cold meats, game, and onion tart. Should be very interesting.Tomorrow's stage is flat, with the exception of a single climb up the Col Du Hantz. The climb is just 3.5 kilometers long and rises at a gradient of five percent. The rest of the ride is level. Now, I wonder how that works. It's gotten progressively hillier and more forested here the last couple days. Now we're heading into a flat. Must be some sort of prairie or plain between here and Germany. I'll let you know.Lance Armstrong, for one, is looking forward to tomorrow. "We've been keeping up a brutal pace," he said after today's stage. "I hear a lot of the guys talking about needing a rest." Sounds like the patron might order a rest day – or not. There are rumors that several teams are conspiring to work together against Discovery Channel. As it becomes more and more clear that Lance wants to wear yellow all the way to Paris, that act of hubris might prove his undoing. His team has worked very hard the past two days. They can't afford to go into the mountains weak. Talk to you tomorrow.