Norwegian Thor Hushovd finally ended his frustrating wait for victory on this year’s Tour de France by winning a treacherous, rain-hit sixth stage from Gerona to Barcelona Thursday.
Saxo Bank’s Fabian Cancellara retained the race leader’s yellow jersey with a 0.22sec lead on American Lance Armstrong after the 181.5km stage ahead of the first day of climbing in the Pyrenees on Friday. Despite attempts by Armstrong’s Astana team to distance their yellow jersey rivals further with accelerations of pace on the climbs, the biggest star of the day was Hushovd.
The big Cervelo rider, handing his new team their first victory on the Tour, had to eat humble pie in the opening days of the race as British sprint rival Mark Cavendish coasted to consecutive victories on stages two and three.
As the more agile sprinters climbed to their battle on the uphill finish line, Cavendish had to settle for 16th place.
It was no suprise that Hushovd pumped his arms in the air, shouting defiantly moments after he had beat Spaniard Oscar Freire to victory. “It’s been a really stressful week, with crashes and the rain and just the race itself ... I’m just so happy,” said Hushovd, winning his first stage this year to take his career tally to seven. “It’s always good to win , but this has to be one of my best.” In a dramatic finale Scotland’s David Millar saw his ambitious attack come to an agonising end just 2km from the finish line as the pace of the sprinters’ teams ruined his day at the front among a three-man breakaway.
As a 40-strong group raced past the Scot on the way towards the Olympic stadium, it was every man for himself as the finish line approached. Freire pulled slightly forward of the rest in the closing 150 metres but he drove more powerfully to beat him by a bike length at the finish line.