LISIEUX, France — Alberto Contador knew it made little sense to take risks on a day when blinding, torrential rain lashed riders in the Tour de France.
The 141-mile course Thursday, the sixth and longest stage of the three-week race, made for a dangerous trip. And the field was fortunate to avoid a major crash a day after several riders went tumbling.
"It was another nervous stage, and because of the rain, I virtually couldn't see anything," said Contador, the defending champion and three-time Tour winner. "At the end of the stage, I was moving to the very front of the pack simply to avoid accidents and not because I wanted to attack."
Two-time runnersup Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck also didn't take chances as Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen led a sprint to capture the stage. Australia's Matt Goss was second and overall race leader Thor Hushovd of Norway third.
Evans kept second overall. The Australian is one second behind Hushovd. Schleck, from Luxembourg, is 12 seconds behind in 10th, Contador 1:42 behind in 34th.
Moving fairly close to the front meant relative safety for Contador, Schleck and Evans. They were among the first 50 of the 197 riders who completed the stage.
"Yesterday wind, today rain. Luckily, there seemed to be some kind of understanding within the peloton not to take too many risks," Schleck said. "As if all the teams had suffered enough crashes yesterday."
A rider would have encountered untold trouble if caught behind the peloton in a dominolike crash on the treacherous, narrow roads snaking toward Normandy. Wind made things even more hazardous.
After sustaining cuts and bruises in a crash Wednesday, it looked as if Contador was set for more bad luck Thursday when he had to change bikes about 50 miles in. Teammate Daniel Navarro gave him his.
"When you have little cuts and scratches, you're not comfortable until you're warmed up," Contador said. "I had a problem with the water, the roads, with a little stone."