Thor Hushovd led a mass sprint finish win the sixth stage of the Tour de France in wet conditions on Thursday, while overall leader Fabian Cancellara remained a second ahead of comeback king Lance Armstrong.
The Norwegian headed off last year’s green jersey winner Oscar Freire and another Spaniard in Jose Joaquin Rojas to give his Cervelo team its first stage win in cycling’s premier event, and his sixth. The top 43 riders were all classified with a time of four hours, 21 minutes and 33 seconds, including Cancellara in 10th and seven-time champion Armstrong in 27th. Armstrong’s Astana team-mates Alberto Contador, Andreas Kloden and Levi Leipheimer are placed third to fifth overall, the latter only 31 seconds behind the Swiss leader. Britain’s Mark Cavendish remained on top of the green jersey standings for sprinters by just one point from Hushovd after finishing 16th in the 113-mile ride from Gerona to Barcelona in Spain. Hushovd took great heart in the fact that he was able to head off Cavendish, who has already won two stages. “That was great. I always said that Mark is not unbeatable. He’s really quick, of course. He’s the fastest sprinter in the world, there’s no doubt about that but we can beat him,” he said.
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“Now I’ve done just that. It felt like I had a lot of power and it was great today. “I knew that this was a perfect finish for Oscar Freire and we are in Spain so of course he was really motivated. I saw the Rabobank guys were really riding for him so I was on his wheel and it was perfect for me because I had better legs. It was perfect. “When I saw the profile in the road book, I knew it was a good chance for me. We put a couple of guys up the front of the peloton to ride and try to get back the breakaway. The team did a good job today and I’m really happy with my sprint. “My goal was — and is — the green jersey. Now I’ve won a stage and that’s another big objective that’s been done. Soon we’ll be in the mountains and our team has Carlos Sastre, who can win the Tour so we have to support him. I’ll take it day by day and see what happens with the points for the green jersey.” Defending champion Sastre suffered an early crash and is now 23rd overall, two minutes and 44 seconds behind Team Saxo Bank’s Cancellara. Cavendish’s compatriot David Millar had at one stage taken over the overall lead as, after starting the leg more than a minute behind Cancellara, he followed Sebastien Chavanel and Stephane Auge who had established a lead of three minutes and 45 seconds on the pack at the 40-mile mark.
Millar attacked with 18 miles to go with Amets Txurruka and had built a 55-second lead, but was caught just a mile before the finish as Romain Feillu began the sprint for stage honors with the Milram and Rabobank teams having done most of the chasing. Millar ended up back in 96th place for the Garmin Slipstream team, more than a minute behind Hushovd.