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Hushovd wins 6th Tour stage in Barcelona

NORWAY'S Thor Hushovd took advantage of the rain and a tricky finale to claim his seventh career victory at the Tour de France yesterday in the 181.5-kilometer sixth stage from Girona to Barcelona.

The Cervelo team sprinter denied local riders a home win as the race moved into Spain, with favorite and three-time world champion Oscar Freire finishing second ahead of compatriot Jose Joaquin Rojas.

Fabian Cancellara retained the overall leader's yellow jersey. Seven-time champion Lance Armstrong stayed second with the same time as the Swiss.

Hushovd, usually at ease in bad weather and short hills, was too strong for Freire on the slippery, rain-soaked last stretch.

"It was a hard first week but I'm too happy right now. I knew I could do something in this stage. It was slippery and dangerous but it suits me," Hushovd said.

The top three clocked 4 hours, 21 minutes, 33 seconds for the stage, the same time as 40 other riders, including Armstrong and Cancellara, in the main pack of favorites.

The pack set off at a swift pace of about 47 kilometers an hour for the first 25 kilometers. Breakaway attempts by riders such as Americans David Zabriskie and George Hincapie were quickly reeled in by the peloton.

David Millar narrowly missed out on a fourth Tour stage victory and his first in six years, when the Briton was caught with two kilometers to go in the last climb towards the Olympic stadium of Montjuic.

Millar broke away after some 45 kilometers with Frenchmen Stephane Auge and Sylvain Chavanel, who were later joined by Spain's Amets Txurruka.

Garmin-Slipstream rider Millar attacked the group with 29 kilometers remaining, shortly before the ascent to the Cote de la Conreria.

He remained on his own until the finale, when the leading part of a split bunch finally bridged the gap.

There were several crashes because of the weather conditions. Defending champion Carlos Sastre of Spain slipped early in the stage while Belgian Tom Boonen, allowed to race in the Tour at the last minute following an out-of-competition test for cocaine, also crashed heavily with three kilometers to go.

Cancellara has been the only man to wear the yellow jersey this year. Armstrong is a split-second behind and 2007 Tour champion Alberto Contador of Spain is third as the Tour reaches new heights today with the first mountain stage, a 224-kilometer ride from Barcelona to Andorra-Arcalis.

The Tour ends on July 26 in Paris.


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