The rain in Spain causes many riders pain

"Rising from the city's heart is Montjuich, the magic mountain where from its crest, one can see why this Spanish coastal city is favoured by so many, open to the sea and embracing its rich inheritance and identity," reads the Tour de France guide of Barcelona.

Leading to the two-kilometre-long finishing climb on a miserable, rain-soaked Thursday afternoon, Thor Hushovd rose from the depths of the peloton, bided his time, then in the last 200 metres, ripped out the hearts of his adversaries with an unmatched final turn of speed, firmly establishing his first-year Cervélo TestTeam as a green jersey contender at the 2009 Tour de France.

"I think I know what I can do, and when I see stages like this I get really motivated," said Hushovd when asked about his uncanny knack of predicting - then winning - stages that he knows he can do well in. Hushovd comfortably outsprinted Rabobank's Oscar Freire and Jose Joaquin Rojas of Caisse d'Epargne to claim his first Tour stage win since the second stage of the 2008 Grande Boucle.

"I get my head together to be strong. I just know that finishes like this one or the one last year fit me well - and if they are the only chances I have to win, then I have to take them," he said, now just one point off the lead of Mark Cavendish (Columbia-HTC) in the battle for the green jersey.

Despite being his seventh Tour de France stage victory and having been points champion in 2005, Hushovd - known as the "God of Thunder" for his preternatural power - was overlooked by many as a possible stage winner and therefore potential green jersey victor, largely due to the dominance of Columbia-HTC's Cavendish, who's won two stages so far. But the Norwegian wasn't bothered, and if anyone is going to topple the maillot vert from the Isle of Man this year, it's him.

"In the first week, [Carlos] Sastre gave me the chance to do what I wanted, so now I will try to support him," Hushovd said. "Of course, the green jersey is really important but we also have to help Sastre as much as we can."

Andorra Arcalis looms: Can Cancellara hold on?

Crossing the line in tenth place was the maillot jaune of Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank). The top six positions and relative times on the General Classification remained unchanged after Thursday's stage.

However, before Friday's first major mountain appointment to the 2,240-metre summit of Andorra Arcalis, there were some significant shuffles as Astana's Haimar Zubeldia, Garmin-Slipstream's Dave Zabriskie and his teammate David Millar - the stage protagonist caught just one kilometre from the line - lost their positions on the leader board's top-10, elevating Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Slipstream), Gustav Larsson (Saxo Bank) and Maxime Monfort (Columbia-HTC) to eighth, ninth and tenth overall, respectively.

"I rode with my heart instead of my head," said Millar, who wore the combative jersey of the day's most aggressive rider. "With 10km to go, I thought the peloton would still be disorganised, but with five kilometres to go, I said to myself, 'Oh no, it's over'."

"I don't want to think about tomorrow," said Cancellara of the crucial day that lies ahead, "just recover from today, because it was a really difficult stage with a crazy finish. Then I'll start thinking.

"But it's a good question and a question I have to ask myself. I know there are far better climbers like the Schleck brothers, but I will defend the jersey as much as I can. I don't know how well I can do. Now I have to help the team, but it's not a problem - it's been a great week in yellow. The real stages are coming. We will see Team Saxo Bank in the front, that's for sure," he said.

Girona - the city Americans call home

Beginning from the Spanish university town so many American riders have called home the past decade, the peloton, 177-strong at the start in Girona, faced a stage of medium difficulty before Friday's inevitable smack-down to Andorra Arcalis.

Comprising five categorised climbs that included a trio of Cat. 4s and a pair of Cat. 3s littered along the 181.five-kilometre route, it was the perfect parcours for a small escape, and after 46km and a flurry of unsuccessful moves, a break of three eventually stuck. British rider and Girona local David Millar of Garmin-Slipstream was first to go, followed by Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) and moments later, Stéphane Augé (Cofidis), making it another break that favoured the French - so long as they made it to Barcelona.

Unlike the stage before, when a group of six established a near-10-minute lead, 3:27 was the most Thursday's trio got 65km into the stage. Still, it temporarily placed Millar, the best-placed rider on GC in the break, 1:07 behind Cancellara at the start of the day, into the virtual malliot jaune.

As the grey clouds above gave way to rain, it seemed to not bother them, and 70-km from the finish, they received some welcome horsepower when Euskaltel-Euskadi's Amets Txurruka bridged to the front trio, the peloton 1:42 in arrears. A few clicks later, when Augé led the quartet over the Cat. 4 climb of the Collesacreu at the 110-km mark, it guaranteed the Frenchman the polka-dot jersey by the day's end.

Some 30km from Barcelona and back in the peloton, a crash exiting a roundabout saw Cervélo's Heinrich Haussler, Michael Rogers (Columbia-HTC) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream) go down; with a limping Rogers very slow to return to his machine.

With 29km to go, Millar attacked down the left side of the road on a false flat, his breakaway companions unable to respond. Four kilometres later, he enjoyed a one-minute lead, his advantage remaining steady still 10km after that, chased only by Augé (Cofidis) and Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi), with Chavanel (Quick Step) dropped.

Forward on the saddle and hunched low over his bars, Millar gave his all. But Thursday in Barcelona, his all was not quite enough, and the charging peloton caught just a kilometre out. That led to a frenzied uphill sprint that proved perfect for Hushovd.

For images of stage six click here

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Full Results
1Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team4:21:33
2Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) RabobankRow 1 - Cell 2
3Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d'EpargneRow 2 - Cell 2
4Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team MilramRow 3 - Cell 2
5Franco Pellizotti (Ita) LiquigasRow 4 - Cell 2
6Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Team KatushaRow 5 - Cell 2
7Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre - NGCRow 6 - Cell 2
8Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La MondialeRow 7 - Cell 2
9Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence - LottoRow 8 - Cell 2
10Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo BankRow 9 - Cell 2
11Andreas Klöden (Ger) AstanaRow 10 - Cell 2
12Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La MondialeRow 11 - Cell 2
13Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo BankRow 12 - Cell 2
14Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) LiquigasRow 13 - Cell 2
15Sébastien Rosseler (Bel) Quick StepRow 14 - Cell 2
16Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia - HTCRow 15 - Cell 2
17Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick StepRow 16 - Cell 2
18George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia - HTCRow 17 - Cell 2
19Roman Kreuziger (Cze) LiquigasRow 18 - Cell 2
20Levi Leipheimer (USA) AstanaRow 19 - Cell 2
21Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Team MilramRow 20 - Cell 2
22Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Silence - LottoRow 21 - Cell 2
23Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) AstanaRow 22 - Cell 2
24Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - SlipstreamRow 23 - Cell 2
25Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo BankRow 24 - Cell 2
26Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) Team KatushaRow 25 - Cell 2
27Lance Armstrong (USA) AstanaRow 26 - Cell 2
28Luis León Sánchez Gil (Spa) Caisse d'EpargneRow 27 - Cell 2
29Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia - HTCRow 28 - Cell 2
30Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Cervelo Test TeamRow 29 - Cell 2
31Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française des JeuxRow 30 - Cell 2
32Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Caisse d'EpargneRow 31 - Cell 2
33Julian Dean (NZl) Garmin - SlipstreamRow 32 - Cell 2
34Martijn Maaskant (Ned) Garmin - SlipstreamRow 33 - Cell 2
35Maxime Monfort (Bel) Team Columbia - HTCRow 34 - Cell 2
36Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - SlipstreamRow 35 - Cell 2
37Jens Voigt (Ger) Team Saxo BankRow 36 - Cell 2
38Gustav Erik Larsson (Swe) Team Saxo BankRow 37 - Cell 2
39Christian Knees (Ger) Team MilramRow 38 - Cell 2
40Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia - HTCRow 39 - Cell 2
41Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La MondialeRow 40 - Cell 2
42Rigoberto Uran (Col) Caisse d'EpargneRow 41 - Cell 2
43Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre - NGCRow 42 - Cell 2
44Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Quick Step0:00:09
45Peter Velits (Svk) Team MilramRow 44 - Cell 2
46Romain Feillu (Fra) AgritubelRow 45 - Cell 2
47Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) AstanaRow 46 - Cell 2
48Brett Lancaster (Aus) Cervelo Test Team0:00:15
49Alessandro Vanotti (Ita) Liquigas0:00:39
50Koen de Kort (Ned) Skil-ShimanoRow 49 - Cell 2
51Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Team Katusha0:00:46
52Arnaud Coyot (Fra) Caisse d'EpargneRow 51 - Cell 2
53Sebastian Lang (Ger) Silence - Lotto0:00:50
54Aleksandr Kuschynski (Blr) LiquigasRow 53 - Cell 2
55Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Team Saxo BankRow 54 - Cell 2
56Jérémy Roy (Fra) Française des JeuxRow 55 - Cell 2
57Bert Grabsch (Ger) Team Columbia - HTCRow 56 - Cell 2
58Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des JeuxRow 57 - Cell 2
59Stéphane Goubert (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 58 - Cell 2
60Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Silence - LottoRow 59 - Cell 2
61José Luis Arrieta Lujambio (Spa) AG2R La MondialeRow 60 - Cell 2
62José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d'EpargneRow 61 - Cell 2
63Jussi Veikkanen (Fin) Française des JeuxRow 62 - Cell 2
64Brice Feillu (Fra) AgritubelRow 63 - Cell 2
65Haimar Zubeldia Aguirre (Spa) AstanaRow 64 - Cell 2
66Marcus Fothen (Ger) Team MilramRow 65 - Cell 2
67Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) RabobankRow 66 - Cell 2
68Sébastien Minard (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en LigneRow 67 - Cell 2
69Thierry Huppond (Fra) Skil-Shimano0:00:58
70Nikolai Troussov (Rus) Team KatushaRow 69 - Cell 2