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The highlights of the stage were an exceptionally well ridden break by David Millar followed by a blistering sprint by Thor “The Hamma” Hushovd. Besides that the stage was marked wreck after wreck on the rain slicked roads mostly on the later half of the race.

Hushovd does a picture sprint to take the win and get back into contention on the green jersey competition

Hushovd does a picture sprint to take the win and get back into contention on the green jersey competition

In early riding, Zabriskie, Hincapie, Fletcha, Millar and Freire all took a stab at a break today. At around the 50 km mark, by Millar, Auge and Chavanel. They quickly gained a minute on the field over the next 5k or so. The lead grew to its max of 3:30 by the 65km mark. The peloton learned from the previous day not to let the break get to far out either that or Millar was seen a significant enough of a threat to keep it close.

A light rain began at the 80km mark, which didn’t bode well relative to the hilly terrain ahead. Astana comes to the front to keep its riders out of trouble. Txurruka gets free and bridges to the break by the 110km mark. Just after the base of the final climb, Millar attacks his compatriots. He gets a gap the others can’t match. He had about a minute over the peloton with the mountain and decent, a flat section of about 10km and some steep rollers in the last 2km to conquer.

Millar’s lead over the peloton slips to 30 seconds but by the end of the decent is back up to over a minute. Millar is burying himself on the flats to hold on to the tenuous lead. After 10km of wrecks, and looking at each other, the peloton wakes up and accelerates. The question is will someone jump to snag a few seconds, will Millar take advantage of the indecisive peloton or will it go to an unexpected sprint?

As the peloton bears down on Millar, Columbia’s Martin is up front with Cavendish but where was his regular lead out guy, Renshaw? Millar was caught at the 1km after a supreme effort. Columbia’s Martin tried to control the pace through the final Km to set up the sprint for Cavendish to no avail. On the sprint, Pozzato went left and Freire went right with Hushovd on his wheel. Hushovd takes it at the line.

Hushovd narrowly missed taking over the Green jersey lead over Cavendish by one point. What was expected to be a Cavendish rout is shaping up to be a very competitive sprint competition.

The unexpected sprint wins the day.

All eyes are on stage 7 and the mountains near Andorra. Tomorrow is the day were we see who has got the legs and more importantly which of Astana’s leaders can assert control. I think Lance is counting on strategy and experience and maybe seniority to hold onto control where Contador has raw horsepower. Either way it goes, it will be exciting to watch. There are several riders including Cadel, Sastre, and Schleck who are in need of some seconds and minutes. They may just have to take a chance and scramble for it on what is likely a Astana dominated stage.

Climbs of the day
Km 32.0 – Côte de Sant Feliu de Guixols – 2.0 km climb to 5.4% – Category 4
Km 55.0 – Côte de Tossa de Mar – 3.8 km climb to 4.2% – Category 4
Km 98.0 – Côte de Sant Vicenc de Montalt – 3.3 km climb to 5.2% – Category 3
Km 110.0 – Collsacreu – 4.1 km climb to 5.2% – Category 3
Km 159.0 – Côte de la Conreria – 4.7 km climb to 4.5% – Category 4

Stage Profile

Stage 6 Profile

Stage 6 Profile

Stage 6 Recap
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Stage 6 Video
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Stage 6 Results
1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team 4:21:33
2 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank
3 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
4 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Milram
5 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas
6 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Team Katusha
7 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre – NGC
8 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
9 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto
10 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank
11 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana
12 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale
13 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
14 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas
15 Sébastien Rosseler (Bel) Quick Step
16 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia – HTC
17 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step
18 George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia – HTC
19 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas
20 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana

Green Jersey Overall
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia – HTC 106 pts
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team 105
3 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Milram 66
4 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin – Slipstream 54
5 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank 53

Overall Results
1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank 19:29:22
2 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana
3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 0:00:19
4 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana 0:00:23
5 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana 0:00:31
6 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin – Slipstream 0:00:38
7 Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia – HTC 0:00:52
8 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin – Slipstream 0:01:16
9 Gustav Erik Larsson (Swe) Team Saxo Bank 0:01:22
10 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Team Columbia – HTC 0:01:29

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After a half hour hunting a live feed from of the tour, I finally hooked into a choppy feed from Eurosport Live.  Took some effort to ignore the rather adolescent chat room that accompanied the site but who’s complaining.

 

Got to love the underdog.  Stefan Schumacher gets it done on the 4th stage of the TdF.  Maybe somebody else in computerland saw or made a prediction of Schumacher dropping the hammer in this stage but I didn’t.  He stormed to the top of the pile in Lance like proportions bringing a 35:44 for the 29.5km TT for an average of 49.534 km/hr or over 30MPH.  He bested a close group of riders including Cancellara +33, Menchov +34, Voigt +35, Vande Velde +37 and Hincapie +41.  Other riders came in later to challenge but couldn’t quite get it done. 

 

The elevation profile shows that this course as a rather flat unassuming loop. In truth the winds were strong and the course more rolling than expected.  The result was that while the contenders still gravitated upward there were some surprises including in the top spot.

 

2008 TdF Stage 4 Elevation Profile

2008 TdF Stage 4 Elevation Profile

As hoped for, team members from both Team Columbia and Garmin – Chipotle put in some excellent performances.  Danny Pate threw the gauntlet down early demonstrating strength for Garmin/Chipotle.  It wasn’t till the big guns came out much later that he was bested and only by a small margin at first.  Danny hung in for 14th, a very respectable placing for the TdF.  Well done. 

 

Other American team members also got in on the action including Pate’s Garmin compatriots Vande Velde 8th, and Millar, with stellar 3rd a mere 18 seconds off the leader.  Columbia’s best placers include Lövkvist 11th, Hincapie 9th and Kirchen with 2nd only 18 seconds off the leader and slightly ahead of Millar.  American teams are clearly strong and deep as today’s results show.  They are 1st and 2nd on the team overall.  We shall see if that holds up on the more difficult stages to follow.

 

At first it seems Schumacher has no GC illusions from his first interview on Eurosport.   Later on it is published that he will give up the yellow kicking and screaming. I suppose his director had a chat with him in between.  Here nor there, he got it done and deserves his time in the limelight. 

 

Stage Results
1 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 35.44 (49.5 km/h)
2 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia 0.18
3 David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30 0.18
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto 0.27
5 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC – Saxo Bank 0.33
6 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 0.34
7 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC – Saxo Bank 0.35
8 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30 0.37
9 George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia 0.41
10 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas 0.47
11 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Team Columbia 0.47
12 José Iván Gutierrez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 0.50
13 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis – Le Crédit par Téléphone 1.08
14 Danny Pate (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30 1.10
15 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step 1.18
Overall Results
1 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 14.04.41
2 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia 0.12
3 David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30 0.12
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto 0.21
5 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC – Saxo Bank 0.33
6 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30 0.37
7 George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia 0.41
8 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Team Columbia 0.47
9 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas 0.58
10 José Iván Gutierrez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 1.01
11 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 1.12
12 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC – Saxo Bank 1.13
13 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step 1.18
14 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 1.22
15 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Cofidis – Le Crédit par Téléphone 1.24
Team Results
1 Team Columbia 1.48.58
2 Garmin Chipotle 0.19
3 Team CSC Saxo Bank 0.51
4 Gerolsteiner 1.30
5 Caisse d’Epargne 2.06  

 

I went in to the 2008 Tour de France wondering if I would be as invested in the race as in past years.  I find that I’ve been hedging commitment to the race for several weeks leading up to the start.  After some thought, several reasons jump to mind. 

·         There is the closure of the Discovery team and the subsequent scattering of the team members to the three winds. 

·         There is the hardheaded ASO decision to deny Astana the opportunity to race and along with it two of my favorites, Contador and Leipheimer as well as the ever fascinating director Johan Bruyneel. 

·         There is the decision of Versus to deny the cable impaired a live online video feed relegating us to the semi-live twitter like updates from the major news and team outlets.  

·         Let’s not forget the yearly sponsor and rider changes to navigate. 

 

So with all this nonsense to contend with, who could figure where I’d be three stages in?  Yes, you guessed it, as buried in it as a solo break 5K out with a 2 minute gap. 

 

The two American teams Team Columbia (High Road) and Team Garmin – Chipotle are square in the middle of it.  They have several riders including today’s 2nd place finisher Will Frischkorn and yesterday’s 2nd and 3rd place finishers Kim Kirchen and Gerald Ciolek who are bringing me along for the ride. 

 

I’m not sure how these teams will play out in the GC but they have clearly come to challenge individual stages.  There is a rather rebellious side to each of these teams that hint at more fun to come.  

 

The interview at the end of the stage with Frischkorn was fascinating.  Clearly still wound up from the stage finish, he recounted the story of the finishing kilometers as a series of missteps.  He just knew that he could get it right if they just rewind to 5K out and restart. He wore the disappointment of opportunity lost on his sleeve.  He is a novice to grand tour riding which was a refreshing contrast more controlled interviews of the favorites.  It was very entertaining. 

 

Tomorrow’s time trial will finally stack the players in this year’s race.  I’m hopeful George Hincapie, Mark Cavendish, Christian Vande Velde, and David Millar will shake it up a bit finding their way into the top 10 or 15.  Either way this year is wide open, enjoyably so.

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