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Tour de France, Stage Six: America, You Can Remain Interested

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May I, Average American, Stay Interested? Yes, as Lance Armstrong did nothing on the day to harm his status as being in a virtual tie with Fabian Cancellera for the overall lead. The 181.5 km from Girona to Barcelona dipping across the border for Spain today featured Armstrong and the Astana team maintaining an aggressive pace at the head of the peloton, risking little in preparation for the first day in the Pyrenees tomorrow. You may remain interested, America: the One-testicled Warhammer remains solidly in contention at the conclusion of six days' competition. ↵

↵Crashes? Oh, sure. Rain blanketed northeastern Spain for much of the morning and into the afternoon, creating slick roads and forcing riders to lower tire pressure in order to get a better grip on the slick roads. Even then, falls are inevitable, and fortunately for YouTube, almost always caught on video. ↵

↵ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵ ↵
↵The more of these I watch, the more I'm astounded at the riders' ability to not get sucked up into huge, collarbone-destroying accidents. More impressive still is getting up from it and riding away nonchalantly. ↵

↵With that out of the way: who actually won? Thor Hushovd, a powerful Norwegian sprinter pressing England's Mark Cavendish for possession of the sprinting champ's green jersey. Hushovd joined a herd of riders pushing for position along the final stretches of the race in Barcelona and ultimately bested Oscar Freire (another green jersey contender) for the stage win. Hushovd stuck his arms in the air, yelled and bared his perfect teeth, and thanked Odin for the victory before enjoying his post-race recovery beverage served in a skull, because he's named Thor and that's how he rolls. ↵


↵Also of note: Armstrong on Astana teammate Alberto Contador: ↵

↵⇥"I know Alberto is ready to assert himself on the road, I don't need a team meeting to know that. I know he is ready to go." ↵

↵Contador is a hellacious climber in the mountains. So was Armstrong prior to his retirement, leaving tomorrow both as a chance to see how Armstrong really does hold up on the most physically demanding sections of the Tour and how much teamwork will be done on a team with two Tour de France title contenders. Tomorrow's stage includes a climb to the Arcalis, a fearsome climb earning the rank of "hors category," or "so steep slapping a number on it is just funny, really." The average grade is 7.1 percent, with the opening section popping up at 9 percent. Armstrong has been enjoying a glass of wine with dinner on the tour, a new luxury for a rider who wouldn't touch anything non-mission relevant in his diet in previous years. He might want to switch to shots of pure liquid aspirin after tomorrow if he does well, or just double down and finish the bottle himself if the first mountain stage knocks him out of realistic contention before the race really begins. ↵


This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.