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July 09, 2009

Stage 6 on the road

Today's stage is 181.5 miles/112.8 miles, from Girona, where many US cyclists have been based in Europe, to Barcelona.

With Robert Gesink's broken wrist, 177 riders took the start, in rainy conditions.

Two 3rd Category climbs are the first on the Tour, so there's a good chance that Jussi Veikkanen's time in the polka-dots will come to an end.

There's a bit of a sting in the tail to today's stage, with the final categorized climb (if only a 4th Category) at 22 kilometers/13 miles to ride. There's also a 500-meter springboard at 2 k to ride that might play a role.

4th Category Côte de Sant Feliu de Guixols
1) Botcharov, Katusha, +3
2) Zabriskie, Garmin-Slipstream, +2
3) Txurruka, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +1

A 3-man break formed with Garmin-Slipstream's David Millar, Quick Step's Sylvain Chavanel, and Cofidis' Stéphane Auge. These guys are all leaders on their squads, if not necessarily their team's Tour captain.

4th Category Côte de Tossa de Mar
1) Auge, Cofidis, +3 pts
2) Chavanel, Quick Step, +2 pts
3) Millar, Garmin-Slipstream, +1 pt

Sprint 1, Lloret de Mar:
1) Chavanel, Quick Step, +3 pts
2) Auge, Cofidis, +2 pts
3) Millar, Garmin-Slipstream, +1 pt

Sprint 2, Sant Pol de Mar:
1) Millar, Garmin-Slipstream, +6 pts
2) Chavanel, Quick Step, +4 pts
3) Auge, Cofidis, +2 pts

As the peloton neared the top of the race's first 3rd Category climb, Euskaltel-Euskadi's Amets Txurruka, last year's overall most aggressive rider for the Tour, went off the front of the main field.

3rd Category Côte de Sant Vincenc de Montalt
1) Auge, Cofidis, +4 pts
2) Chavanel, Quick Step, +3 pts
3) Millar, Garmin-Slipstream, +2 pts
4) Amets Txurruka, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +1 pt, at ~:50

Astana has moved to the front on the descent, and Txurruka continued to attempt to bridge to the escape. On the 3rd Category Collsacreu, Txurruka closed the gap, but Auge, looking to take over the King of the Mountains jersey, drove the trio, and they hit the top a few seconds clear, so Auge should take over the polka-dots tonight.

3rd Category Collsacreu
1) Auge, Cofidis, +4 pts
2) Chavanel, Quick Step, +3 pts
3) Millar, Garmin-Slipstream, +2 pts
4) Txurruka, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +1 pt, at ~:10

On the descent, Txurruka joined Auge, Chavanel, and Millar, and the gap stretched back out to around 1:45.

With 50k/31 miles to ride, the gap is 1:35.

Cardedeu sprint:
1) Chavanel, Quick Step, +6 pts
2) Txurruka, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +4 pts
3) Millar, Garmin-Slipstream, +2 pts

As the leading quartet approached the day's last categorized climb with around :50 on the field, a crash on a roundabout took down Columbia's Michael Rogers and Tony Martin, Cervelo's Heinrich Haussler, and Garmin-Slipstream's Tyler Farrar. Rogers was very slow to get back on his bike.

At almost the same time, Millar dropped his breakaway companions, and quickly pushed his advantage back out around a minute. Just at 25 minutes to go, Auge and Chavanel were recaptured by the field, but Txurruka continued between Millar and the field.

At the summit, Millar led, with Txurruka close behind, and Cofidis sent Remi Pauriol, apparently to keep anyone from picking up ground on Auge in the KoM competition.

4th Category Côte de la Conreria
1) Millar, Garmin-Slipstream, +3 pts
2) Txurruka, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +2 pts
3) Pauriol, Cofidis, +1 pt

Over the top, Pauriol continued the attack, and bridged to Txurruka, while Astana controlled the pace in the field. Millar pushed his advantage until it again just touched 1:06, making him the yellow jersey on the road. Pauriol and Txurruka rode :45 back.

As the riders rolled into Barcelona, Millar continued to drive it, giving up a few seconds per kilometer. With 11k, he had 1:11. At 7 kilometers, :45. On the run-in, Tom Boonen tangled with a white line (if I had a dollar for every time...), and was out of contention for the day.

Milram and Columbia moved to the front, and Millar's lead continued to erode. With 5k, it was :37; at 3k, :23. Just inside 2k, a 6.6 percent grade did the Garmin-Chipotle in. With 1.2 kilometers to ride, he was caught.

Cavendish was still in the lead group, but it looked to be Kim Kirchen that Columbia tipped today, with Tony Martin providing the lead-out. Around them, the sport's punchers: those guys with Classics-style power and speed, including Pippo Pozzato, Alessandro Ballan, Gerald Ciolek, Thor Hushovd, and Oscar Freire.

Feillu was first to go, tailed by Freire, when Thor Hushovd shot through on the left. Freire and Hushovd drag-raced to the line, with Hushovd getting the win.

It was Hushovd's 7th career victory in the Tour, and threatened Cavendish's hold on the green jersey. Adding 35 for the stage win Hushovd holds 105 points, just 1 fewer than Cavendish. Gerald Ciolek sits 3rd.

General classification is largely unchanged, although David Millar slipped from 10th to 20th, at 2:28.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 9, 2009 in 2009 Stage 6, Mark Cavendish, Thor Hushovd | Permalink


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