FOURTH TIME LUCKY - HUSHOVD FINALLY GETS VUELTA STAGE WIN
Second three times in a row in the first week, Thor Hushovd finally secured his first stage win of the Tour of Spain in Leon on Thursday.
The Credit Agricole rider pulled off a tight bunch sprint victory in the sunbaked streets of Leon on stage six, inching just half a wheel ahead of Andre Greipel (T-Mobile).
Big losers on the day were Milram rider Erik Zabel and his team-mate Alessandro Petacchi, who were unable to reap the benefits of some hard work by the Italo-German squad in the final kilometres.
The two lost contact in the last 300 metres, Zabel going one way and Petacchi another, and eventually finishing third and fourth respectively.
That’s a promising result for Petacchi for the future given that it’s his first big placing since he crashed so badly in the Tour of Italy’s first week.
For the present, though, the man rated the fastest in the world when on a good day was not quite able to pull off what would have been his 18th Vuelta stage win.
Milram were already losing control of events with two kilometres to go when Briton David Millar powered up to the front to drop off his team-mate, Saunier Duval-Prodir’s sprinter Francisco Ventoso, close to the front.
Millar swung off with 500 metres to go, but Ventoso was swamped by the Milram riders again and then Hushovd sneaked through a tiny gap for the second Vuelta stage victory of his career.
Overall there was no significant change: Italian Danilo Di Luca still leads ahead of Discovery Channel’s Janez Brajkovic by a slender four second margin.
Whilst a predominating head-wind prevented any echelons from forming on today’s exposed flat and (surprise) hot stage, there will be more opportunities for the gc contenders when the race tackles the first category Alto del Morredero on Friday.
18 kilometres long and the only major climb of the day, the Vuelta 2006’s second mountain top finish has a lethally steep, and narrow first section, so being in the right position from the word go will be crucial.