Tour 2009: The Rain in Spain!

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Today was Stage 6 of the 2009 Tour de France, and aside from some solo heroics by Garmin-Slipstream’s David Millar, it was mostly a by-the-numbers affair, at least in how it played out. But it rained much of the way along the course, which caused numerous crashes, and made for cautious riding at time.

The profile for today’s stage once again favored the sprinters, although there were a few challenging climbs to break things up a bit, including a a climb to the finish. Millar, a time trial specialist, tried to use that form to propel himself to a solo stage win late in the race, but he was caught by the Peloton, led by Astana, near the end, and the top sprinters went at it with “the God of Thunder” Thor Hushovd of Team Cervélo claiming the win.

In the overall standings, nothing has really changed, with Fabian Cancellara still holding on to the Yellow Jersey, with Lance Armstrong less than a second back and Alberto Contador in third, 19 seconds off the pace. Mark Cavendish kept the the Green Jersey of the top sprinter for another day as well, while french rider Stéphane Auge put on the Polka Dot Jersey as the current King of the Mountain. German Tony Martin of Team Columbia-HTC continues to wear the White Jersey given to the best newcomer to the Tour.

The slick roads, thanks to the rain, made it tough going for the Peloton, especially near the end, when there were a couple of crashes in the last few miles leading up to the finish. The biggest name to go down was Tom Boonen from QuickStep, with this crash just underscoring what has been a disappointing Tour for him so far.

Tomorrow, things get really interesting as the race moves from Barcelona to Andorre Arcalis, a distance of 224km (139 miles). But it’s not the distance that will test the riders, as the Tour moves into the mountains for the first time, with a stage set in the dramatic backdrop of the Pyrenees. There will be dramatic climbs throughout the day, but final beyond category climb to the finish will be the one that will cause the most problems. Expect the sprinters to begin dropping, and most likely you’ll see Cancellara relinquish the Yellow Jersey. The question will be to whom will he give it to?

Lance is the obvious guy to put it on, since he is just fractions of a second behind, but we will have to see if this is the Lance of old when it comes to the mountains, where he excelled so much in the past. Armstrong’s teammate Contador is there to swoop in for the lead should Lance falter.

As for my personal predictions, I think Lance will come out of the Pyrenees in Yellow and we won’t see a major showdown with his own teammate until the Alps. But, I wouldn’t be shocked to see one of the pre-race contenders make a move tomorrow. Someone like Cadel Evans, who gave up time to the leaders in this first week, but will want to get himself back into contention by making up time in the mountains. Evans is currently in 35th place, nearly three minutes off the lead. If not him, look for last year’s winner Carlos Sastre to make a move, he’s sitting in the 29th position and 2′:44″ back.

It has been an exciting Tour to watch so far, in no small part because of the return of Armstrong. But it gets really interesting tomorrow and I can’t wait to see how it plays out. High drama on two wheels! 🙂

Kraig Becker

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