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Tour Stage 6 Preview: Girona - Barcelona

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Stage 6 :: Thursday July 9, 2009
181.5km :: Girona - Barcelona

Wait, I'm confused. This is the Tour de France, yet this stage occurs entirely in Cataluña and looks so Giro-like (rolling, lumpy, uphill finish), that I half expect to see Danilo Di Luca exhibiting massive grinta while trying to shake loose an unflappable Denis Menchov.

Thtage 6 runth from Girona to Barthelona along the northeathtern Mediterranean coatht of Thpain (or ith thith exthcluthively Cataluña? Thorry, don't totally underthtand the politicth there).  We thtill don't deviate dramatically from the coatht line, although we finally thee the first bunch of climbth rated above Category 4.  Let'th have a look, thall we?

Madame La Gavia, lay it on us...

The Tour de France now heads into Spain for a brief visit. Continuing the Mediterranean theme of this first week of the Tour, the stage visits Gerona and Barcelona. This course has breakaway written all over it, and includes five categorized climbs and few flat kilometers. The final climb of the day, the Côte de la Conreria, lies 22 kilometers from the finish, close enough to influence the stage outcome. The finish is also uphill. The break should stay away today.

This year marks the first ever visit of the Tour de France to Gerona. Drawn by the good weather and hilly terrain, many American riders racing in Europe have chosen Girona as their home-base on the continent. The stage finishes in Barcelona, the capital of Cataluña. The city has hosted a stage finish twice previously, and the Tour visited Barcelona most recently in 1965. That year, the stage began in Aix-les-Thermes and climbed two major cols in freezing conditions. Spanish rider José Pérez Francés of Ferrys won the stage after a 223 kilometer solo break, which is among the longest in Tour history. Italian Felice Gimondi of Salvarani wore the leader’s jersey that day, and went on to celebrate the overall victory in Paris. This year, the stage finishes in the Parc de Montjuic, site of the 1929 World Exposition.

Courtesy of Gavia's Stage 6 Preview at Steephill.tv

Lame pronunciation jokes aside, I like the looks of this stage.  While missing the epic climb up Vesuvio at the end, it does remind me distinctly of Stage 19 from this year's Giro d'Italia, particularly the stretch along the gorgeous Amalfi coastline, which will be played tomorrow by the magnificent Catalan coastline.

 

We run straight to the ocean, and then make a turn southwest to move along the very rolling terrain that reminds me so much of Amalfi.  Within the baroque frills of the coastline, the riders will surmount two Cat.4 climbs: the Côte de Sant Feliu de Guixols and the Côte de Tossa de Mar.

 

After the short descent back down to sea level, there are a pair of  traguardos volante along the beach, followed by a Hot Chocolate station.

 

Then, finally, an excuse for me to pull out the red crayon.  Cat.3 climbs!  First, we turn inland from the coast to climb up to the first pass, the Côte de Sant Vicenc de Montalt, rising 202m over a 5.4% gradient, which is followed, almost entirely uphill (not sure why they broke this into two climbs) by the Collsacreu at 345m, also over a 5.2% gradient.

 

From the Collsacreu, they descend and head back to the coastline, passing over the minor Côte de la Conreria, which will send them hurtling back to the beach, to run south to Barcelona.

 

It's a nasty finish, not a summit finish by any stretch, but definitely more than just a false flat.  It's a long, lazy turn uphill to the stadium that will make any classics riders in the peloton start drooling right about now.