God of Thunder Thor Hushovd Bolts to Victory in Stage 6 of Tour de France 2009
Less than one week into its debut Tour de France, Cervélo TestTeam scored a sprint victory Wednesday with Thor Hushovd (Norway) in the 181.5 km sixth stage to Barcelona.
Hushovd battled through rain and slick roads that saw team captain Carlos Sastre fall without major consequences early in the stage before attacking up a climbing finish to Barcelona's Olympic Stadium to claim Cervélo's first-ever Tour stage win.
Hushovd positioned himself perfectly in the uphill sprint, relegating three-time world champion Oscar Freire to second place with Spanish rider José Joaquín Rojas trailing across third. Overnight leader Fabian Cancellara retained the yellow jersey.
"Of course, winning makes me very happy. It's always important to win a stage at the Tour de France," Hushovd said. "I knew that today would be a good opportunity for me. I was able to get on the wheel of Freire and that was the perfect place to be. I believe it's a great success for our team. We wanted to win a stage in the first week and now that we've done it, I will work to help Carlos in the mountains."
The 31-year-old's seventh career Tour victory comes with additional good news. With the victory, he pulls within one point of Mark Cavendish in the fight for the prestigious green points jersey.
"We played our cards late in the sprint and Thor was just incredible in the finish," said Cervélo team manager Thomas Campana. "We talked from the beginning that this would be a good opportunity. Everyone knows that when the finish is uphill, it's very hard to come around Thor."
The important victory helped take the sting out of a painful day for some of the Cervélo team riders as scores of crashes and accidents marred the rainy and slick stage along Spain's rugged Costa Brava.
Sastre slipped in a pileup early in the race, but was not seriously injured. The 2008 Tour champ finished safely in the main pack and didn't lose any time relative to his main GC rivals.
Spanish climber José Angel Marchante and Heinrich Haussler also crashed, with Haussler hitting the deck twice in the closing kilometers.
"I went down on a slick spot coming out of a round-about. It was just so wet there, my front wheel just slid out," said Haussler, who was sporting cuts and scrapes. "I took a lot of risks to catch back to the front group to try to help Thor in the sprint, and then I crashed again when a huge crash took out 30 riders. I don't care, though, I'm just glad Thor won."
The victory will boost morale as Cervélo changes gears and leaves behind the flats and turns Friday into the first of three stages in the Pyrénées.
"This victory was very important for our team. We're a first-year team and we wanted to show people what we could do," Hushovd said. "The team gave me so much support in the sprints and now I only want to give back to help Carlos now in the mountains. I know I cannot take the last pulls on the climbs, but I will do what I can."
Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) retained his overall lead before the Tour hits the real mountains tomorrow.
The 96th Tour continues Friday with the 224km seventh stage from Barcelona to Arcalis in the principality of Andorra. The stage features the first major climbs of the race and will see a major reshuffling of the overall standings.
The route opens with two relatively minor climbs in the first half before the Cat. 1 Col de Serra-Seca at 127km ahead of the long approach to the beyond-category climb to the Arcalis summit high in the Pyrénées. Check out our 2009 Tour de France preview for our stage predictions or read our GC Tour rankings predictions.
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