The sixth stage of the Vuelta a Espana favored the sprinters over the 151 km (93.8 m) course from Caravaca de la Cruz to Murcia except for the steep Category 2 climb up and down the Alto de la Cresta del Gallo (Rooster) 20 km before the finish. This climb would weed out the sprinters who aren’t good at hills (Cavendish) as well as the general category contenders and camiseta roja.
A three-man breakaway got away early on and was almost 10 minutes ahead at one point but was swallowed up during the Rooster climb. The first to crest the mountain was Katusha’s Vladimir Karpets followed by camiseta roja Gilbert and Saxo Bank’s Frank Schleck.
The leading group of 70 riders grouped together toward the finish. The three other sprinters who made it over the climb were Liquigas’ Daniele Bennati, Lampre’s Grega Bola and Astana’s Allan Davis. Hushovd managed a good position in their slipstreams to zip out at the last moment to win the stage.
Hushovd said in an interview on VeloNews:
“I knew the climb was good for me and I thought if sprinters like Cavendish and Farrar couldn’t make it over, I would have a good chance to win,” Hushovd explained. “The stage today was perfect for me and I am happy to win.”
The overall category lineup didn’t change and Belgian Philippe Gilbert of Omega Pharma-Lotto will wear the camiseta roja for the fourth day.
– Cavendish finished today 175th with a time of 12 minutes 31 seconds behind and rode over the line in a “laughing group” according to the Daily Peloton.
– Saxo Bank’s Schleck brothers finished side-by-side in the first group of 70. El Mundo newspaper speculates that the Luxembourg duo might merge with Lance Armstrong’s Radio Shack team with headline “RadioSchleck?” This isn’t so far fetched because they will be riding Trek bikes (Lance’s ride) for their new team.
Friday’s Stage 7 will travel 187.1 km (116.2 m) from Murcia to Orihuela. This stage is relatively flat except for the Category 3 climb starting 69 km before the finish but with a 15 km very flat lead in to the end. Hushovd has proven that he’s a contender over the hills so he could well take this stage again. The overall category probably won’t change though.
1) HUSHOVD, Thor – Cervelo Test Team: 3:36:20
2) BENNATI, Daniele – Liquigas
3) BOLE, Grega – Lampre-Farnese Vini
4) DAVIS, Allan – Astana
5) POZZATO, Filippo – Katusha
1) GILBERT, Philippe – Omega Pharma-Lotto: 22:36:26
2) ANTON, Igor – Euskaltel-Euskadi: + 10″
3) RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin – Katusha: + 10″
4) NIBALI, Vincenzo – Liquigas: + 12″
5) VELITS, Peter – HTC-Columbia: + 16″