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Stage 6: Thunder God dominates stormy day

By Heidi Swift - July 9th, 2009

Rain and wind battered the peloton in the second half of today’s stage, creating slick roads and dangerous conditions. Cervelo Test-Team’s Thor Hushovd (nicknamed “The God of Thunder”) roared to victory on the uphill finish, after the peloton reeled in an impressive solo escape attempt by Garmin-Slipstream’s David Millar. 

Today’s stage did not affect the top tier of the GC – Cancellara (Saxo-Bank) remains in the yellow jersey heading into tomorrow’s first mountain stage with Astana’s Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador nipping at his heels in second and third place. Sitting in 7th place, Tony Martin remains Columbia-HTC’s highest place rider in the overall classification.

Cavendish remains in green, Mick Rogers involved in a nasty crash

The finish didn’t suit Mark Cavendish’s strengths and he crossed the line in 16th position but managed to retain his lead in the points classification by just a single point, so he will once again ride in the green jersey tomorrow. As the race now heads up and into the mountains, Cavendish will have to wait until Stage 10 before he gets another opportunity to go after his third stage victory.

Today’s stage was riddled with crashes – including one that took out Columbia-HTC’s George Hincapie and Mick Rogers.

Hincapie suffered minimal road rash and rejoined the main field to finish the day in 18th. Rogers was not as lucky and looked to be badly hurt – he finished the stage but lost just over 13 minutes dropping from 16th to 159th in the overall classification, dashing any hopes for GC contention. X-rays confirmed that he suffered no broken bones and he is scheduled to start Stage 7 tomorrow.

How it unfolded: David Millar’s near miss

Today’s moderately hilly stage saw David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream), Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step), and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) go clear of the peloton just before the second of five categorized climbs. The trio built a lead of up to four minutes until Astana moved to the front of the race and begin to bring down the gap.

Rain and wind made conditions treacherous and several crashes disrupted the chase efforts along the way. As the gap shrunk to just over two minutes, Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi) jumped clear of the peloton and caught the three leaders.

Up front, the four men worked together to hold off a main field that was slowly closing in until, with 28.7 kilometers to go, David Millar launched a ruthless attack on his breakaway companions.  Heading up the road alone, Millar quickly put a minute into Chavanel and Agué, with Txurruka chasing about 30 seconds back.

It proved to be a brilliant move as Chavanel and Agué were caught by the main field not 5 kilometers later.

With 15.3k to the finish, Millar’s gap had opened up again and the main field was still a minute back -  it looked as though we might get another fairytale solo breakaway victory.

But it was not to be.

As the lanky time-trial expert hit the steepest part of the final climb, the peloton closed in on him, sweeping him up with only 1.5 kilometers until the finish line.

Up at the front of the charging field, Oscar Freire (Rabobank) hit the gas in search of victory, but Cervelo Test Team’s big Norwegian, Thor Hushovd, came around him, muscling in for a decisive win worthy of a man whom people call “The God of Thunder”.

Looking ahead to Stage Seven
Barcelone to Andorre Arcalis - 224 km (139 miles)


Tomorrow’s stage marks the first true mountain stage of the tour – and nearly all 224 kilometers of it go straight uphill. The forecast calls for temperatures in the 70’s and the heat, combined with the sustained climbing, should make this day a true test for the GC contenders.

With previous race favorites like Cadel Evans and Carlos Sastre trailing in the overall classification by almost three minutes, the stage is set for serious fireworks. If they plan to make up the time they’ve lost, they’ll have to deliver some astounding attacks over the next three mountain stages.

Keep your eye on Team Columbia-HTC’s Kim Kirchen. If he’s feeling good, there’s a chance that he may have a go at bringing back at least part of the 2 minutes that he lost in the stage 1 time trial. With Mick Rogers out of GC contention after his crash today, look for him to work for Kirchen as the race rolls into the hills.
 



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