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Points leader Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam) went on a solo attack to earn maximum points at an intermediate sprint line.
Two stages left to consolidate green jersey
The current leader of the points classification, Thor Hushovd of the Cervélo TestTeam, may have a comfortable margin over his direct rival Mark Cavendish of Columbia-Highroad, but the Norwegian still may be out on the attack on the last remaining stages to consolidate his victory of the green jersey on the Champs-Elysées.
On Friday morning, Hushovd led the fast Manxman by 30 points after his solo raid over the peaks of the Alpine queen stage 17 on Wednesday. "This should be enough," he said, to retain the jersey until Paris, but with two stages remaining open to score more points, we might see the 31-year-old going for intermediate sprints again instead of waiting for a fast bunch finish.
The finish in Aubenas on Friday may be particularly suited to Hushovd to decide the outcome of the classification. With one Cat. 2 climb to be mastered some 16 kilometres before the finish line - and the Cervélo rider being a better climber than 'Cav', and excellent descender - the winner of stage six might anticipate a move depending on the race situation.
The first placings of a stage will see the winner and his chasers take 35, 30, 26 points etc. respectively. Intermediate sprints may also not be counted out, as there as there are six, four and two points up for grabs each time the riders pass a green "PMU" banner.
Finally, the prestigious victory on the 'most beautiful avenue in the world' will be sought after by both Hushovd and Cavendish - as well as many other riders. The cobbled false flat leading up to the Arc de Triomphe will be the last milestone for the Norwegian to reiterate his 2005 victory of the green jersey.