Thor optimistic for Tour green
He won the Tour’s prestigious green points jersey last year, but after a rollercoaster of a 2010 season, Cervélo TestTeam’s Thor Hushovd is hesitant to promise a repeat performance over the next three weeks. In fact, he said Garmin-Transitions rider Tyler Farrar is the favorite this year for the green jersey.
Hushovd’s recent Norwegian national road title was further evidence of a season that has been far from consistent. After a series of illnesses, a fatigued Hushovd mustered up a second-place finish at Paris-Roubaix, his career best. A broken collarbone during training followed, and though he struggled at the Tour of Switzerland, a second career win at his national road championship was just the confidence boost the blonde sprinter needed heading into cycling’s most important race.
“I did the classics with a lot of ups and downs, I was a bit sick, and a bit injured,” Hushovd said. “I looked forward to starting the Tour of California, but I crashed and broke my collarbone. I began training after six days off the bike. The Tour de Suisse was hard, but I felt better by end and ended the race with some good feelings. Then last weekend I won the national championships, and it was on a hard course, which showed I was strong and back on form. That’s important one week before the Tour starts. I’m ready to go for stage wins, and hopefully the green jersey as well.”
In 2009 Hushovd won the difficult stage 6 into Barcelona ahead of Oscar Freire after Mark Cavendish and Tyler Farrar were dropped. He swapped off time spent in the points jersey with Cavendish until stage 14, when Cavendish was relegated in a field sprint for riding Hushovd into the barriers, effectively removing the HTC-Columbia from the competition.
To prove that he deserved to wear green in Paris, Hushovd went on the attack on the hilly stage 17 to Le Grand-Bornand, climbing two categorized mountains alone to take maximum points at the intermediate sprints before dropping back to the peloton. Though he won only one stage, he held the green jersey in Paris, for the second time in his career.
This year Hushovd points to Farrar, not Cavendish, as the man most favored to take green in Paris.
“I think Farrar has shown big form all year,” Hushovd said. “He’s good in the crosswinds, he’s good on the cobblestones, so he’s not going to get dropped on days like these. He’s often there, so if he’s not winning, he’s second or third, and that’s what counts for the green jersey. And I think he’ll survive the mountains.”
Hushovd also named Cavendish, Oscar Freire and Alessandro Petacchi as green jersey contenders. As for his own chances, Hushovd said, “I’m not too sure. I haven’t sprinted for months. My form is good, and for me that’s most important. I’ll try the first sprint, hopefully in Brussels on Sunday.”
Hushovd’s Cervélo lead-out train will consist of Jeremy Hunt, Daniel Lloyd and Brett Lancaster, with Lancaster the final man in the train. It’s a team that will figure prominently on the seven sections of cobblestones during stage 3.
“We have riders for the crosswinds and riders for the cobbles. It’s a bit of an all-star classics team,” Hushovd said. “For normal sprints, I have a few guys have to ride before me. The idea is to use Brett as the last man, and Jeremy before that. We have to see what happens during the race, and who has to ride (in the wind). We also have Andreas Klier, if he’s not riding, he can do something, and the same with Daniel Lloyd. If they are all fresh men at the finish, we can do a great lead-out.”
Asked about Saturday’s 9km prologue in Rotterdam — Hushovd won the 2006 Tour prologue in Strasbourg and took yellow — the Norwegian was pragmatic about his chances.
“I began to think about the prologue, and taking the jersey, after the classics,” he said. “I started to prepare on my time trial bike, but with my crash I couldn’t ride the TT bike. I am not that focused on the prologue, but now that I’m feeling better, I just want to take the start Saturday and give 100 percent. I’ll give everything to have a good prologue, but to finish in the top 10 is not all that important. I just want to start well, to give it full gas, and we’ll see what happens.”