Stage 6: Girona to Barcelona 181.5km
The 2009 Tour de France is shaping up to be a classic, with every stage having its fair share of high drama. Today was no exception: a long breakaway by David Millar only swallowed up almost within sight of the line, plenty of crashes involving big riders and a great uphill sprint finish: Thor Hushovd (Cervélo Test Team) walked away with today's spoils.
A bumpy day in the rain was the prospect facing the 178 remaining riders on a Spanish stage that took in five minor climbs (three cat 4, two cat 3) before a punishing uphill finished that looked to favour the climbers (and one-day specialists) over the sprinters. Most of the opening salvos were conducted in heavy rain that had defending champion Carlos Sastre sprawling on the tarmac at one point, though no damage was done. David Milllar (Garmin Slipstream) tried unsuccessfully to break with Oscar Freire (Rabobank) before he made one stick with Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) and Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step).
However, the peloton kept the breakaway on a fairly tight leash after the debacle of Wednesday when a lack of commitment from the sprint teams allowed Thomas Voeckler to stay out all the way to finish, beating the charging sprinters by just seven seconds. Cervélo and Rabobank spent plenty of time on the front, with Milram chipping in to peg the lead back to less than three minutes. With 77km to go Euskaltel's Amets Txurruka jumped off the front and worked hard over the next 6km to reel the leading three in. By that time the advantage had dropped to just a minute and a half and a bunch finish looked inevitable.
With 30km to go the rain made conditions treacherous on a roundabout crossing and Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo), Michael Rogers (Columbia HTC) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin Slipstream) all hit the deck. At the same point Millar got tired of company and struck out for home on his own, leaving the other three escapees fairly easily and extending an advantage that had slipped to 45 seconds back out to over a minute. Over the top of the last climb his advantage was just 40 seconds but Millar pulled out all of his time trialling nous to stay in front to the outskirts of Barcelona.
At that point is looked like the race would come together for a sprint but this Year's tour is one of high drama and this stage was no exception. Two crashes in the last 8km split up the pack and claimed the notable scalp of Tom Boonen, whilst at the same time allowing Millar to slip further away. It wasn't to be in the end, though: Millar's valiant effort ran out of steam in the final couple of kilometres and Hushovd was on hand to take advantage, powering away from Oscar Freire and Jose Joaquin Rojas to take the win. Cadel Evans took a notable 9th and Cancellara was in the mix too in 10th.
Overall nothing changes in the GC, with the top ten riders all finishing in the first group with the same time as the winners. Mark Cavendish came in 16th on a run in that never looked to suit him. He retains the green jersey though by just one point: He's on 106, Hushovd is breathing down his neck on 105.
Tomorrow the race hits the mountains and there's no easy opener: it's proper men-from-boys stuff as the route winds 224km from Barcelona over the category 1 Col de Serra Seca (1160m) and then up to one of the highest ever stage finishes, the 2240m Andorre Arcalis. With the last 70km practically all uphill there's no doubt we'll see some major changes in the GC. Tune in tomorrow to find out who the big winners – and big losers – are..
1. HUSHOVD Thor CERVELO TEST TEAM 4h 21' 33" 2. FREIRE Oscar RABOBANK 3. ROJAS Jose Joaquin CAISSE D’EPARGNE 4. CIOLEK Gerald TEAM MILRAM 5. PELLIZOTTI Franco LIQUIGAS 6. POZZATO Filippo TEAM KATUSHA 7. BALLAN Alessandro LAMPRE - N.G.C 8. NOCENTINI Rinaldo AG2R-LA MONDIALE 9. EVANS Cadel SILENCE - LOTTO 10. CANCELLARA Fabian TEAM SAXO BANK
1. CANCELLARA Fabian TEAM SAXO BANK 19h 29' 22" 2. ARMSTRONG Lance ASTANA 19h 29' 22" + 00' 00" 3. CONTADOR Alberto ASTANA 19h 29' 41" + 00' 19" 4. KLÖDEN Andréas ASTANA 19h 29' 45" + 00' 23" 5. LEIPHEIMER Levi ASTANA 19h 29' 53" + 00' 31" 6. WIGGINS Bradley GARMIN - SLIPSTREAM 19h 30' 00" + 00' 38" 7. MARTIN Tony TEAM COLUMBIA - HTC 19h 30' 14" + 00' 52" 8. VANDE VELDE Christian GARMIN - SLIPSTREAM 19h 30' 38" + 01' 16" 9. LARSSON Gustav TEAM SAXO BANK 19h 30' 44" + 01' 22" 10. MONFORT Maxime TEAM COLUMBIA - HTC 19h 30' 51" + 01' 29"
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.