REUTERS - Norway's Thor Hushovd took advantage of the rain a and tricky finale to take his seventh career victory on the Tour de France on Thursday in the 181.5-km sixth stage from Girona to Barcelona.
The Cervelo team sprinter denied local riders a home win as the race moved into Spain, with favourite Oscar Freire finishing second ahead of compatriot Jose Joaquin Rojas.
Fabian Cancellara retained the overall leader's yellow jersey. Seven-times 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.
David Millar narrowly missed out on a fourth Tour stage victory and his first in six years, when the Briton was caught with two kilometres to go in the last climb towards the Olympic stadium of Montjuic.
Millar broke away after some 45 km 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 km 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 kilometres to go.
The Tour reaches new heights on Friday with the first mountain stage, a 224-km ride from Barcelona to Andorra-Arcalis.