Thor Hushovd (Cervélo) knows better than to think he has the green jersey wrapped up despite holding a solid lead over a stampede of sprinters chasing the points at the Tour de France.
The two-time maillot vert winner leads the competition with 102 points, with two-stage winner Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) in second with 88 points and three-time jersey-winner Robbie McEwen (Katusha) in third with 81 points. Arch-rival Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) won Thursday and bounced to ninth with 50.
“It’s too early to talk about the green jersey. The Tour is just at day five and we have a lot of racing ahead of us,” said Hushovd, fifth in Thursday’s stage. “The best way to win points is to win sprints. That’s what I want to do.”
Hushovd knows one botched sprint or a crash to miss out on just one day’s sprints could turn things around very fast.
One name who’s shot to contention is Tour rookie Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky).
Back-to-back third-place sprint finishes have catapulted a new face near the top of what’s a crowded green jersey hunt, and the young Norwegian could be giving his compatriot a run for his money.
“Yes, he’s a great new young rider from Norway. It’s his first Tour and he’s already showing he can be there in the sprints. He’s going to be a big rider in the future,” Hushovd said. “It will be fun to battle against him for the green jersey. I hope I win.”
Boasson Hagen, 23, used the Critérium du Dauphiné to hone his form after a long comeback from pain in his Achilles tendon, which forced him to forfeit the spring classics.
Rather than bashing the cobblestones, he went home to Norway to recover. He took one week off the bike and worked closely with physical therapists. He returned to racing at the Bayern Rundfahrt and was good enough to make the Tour selection with Team Sky.
“It was very painful. I don’t know what caused it, but hopefully it won’t come back,” Boasson Hagen said of the injury. “I don’t get stressed that often. I am quite relaxed as a person, but it’s never nice to have an injury. At the Tour, I just want to learn and help the team out when I can.”
Two veterans are right in the mix, with Petacchi and McEwen riding Hushovd’s coattails.
Petacchi is riding on great form with two wins in three sprints contested, but he’s doubtful to get over the mountains in the final week.
McEwen has won the green jersey three times, but he’s banged up from a nasty crash in Monday’s stage.
“I’m just trying to win a stage first and you don’t start thinking about the green jersey until later,” McEwen said. “We’ll see how I can get through with these injuries.”
Top-10, Points Competition
- 1. Thor Hushovd, Cérvelo Test Team, at 102 points
- 2. Alessandro Petacchi, Lampre – Farnese, at 88 points
- 3. Robbie McEwen, Katusha Team, at 81 points
- 4. Jose Joaquin Rojas, Caisse D’Epargne, at 73 points
- 5. Boasson Hagen Edvald, Sky Pro Cycling, at 64 points
- 6. Geraint Thomas, Sky Pro Cycling, at 59 points
- 7. Sébastien Turgot, Bbox Bouygues Telecom, at 59 points
- 8. Daniel Oss, Liquigas-Doimo, at 54 points
- 9. Mark Cavendish, Team HTC-Columbia, at 50 points
- 10. Gerald Ciolek, Team Milram, at 49 points
McEwen looks to be in worse shape than even he expected. He wrote on Twitter following Thursday’s stage: “Suffered really badly today. Injuries worse instead of better and seem to have lost enough blood from elbow wound to affect my form, too.”
Cavendish remains a factor despite a slow start. He opened the Tour with the stated goal of winning the green jersey, but he entered Wednesday’s stage with just one point. Thursday’s win shot him into the top 10, with 50 points in ninth place.
Another big victory or two could put Cavendish right back in the mix, and that’s what he’s counting on.
“Obviously we have to get the wins started,” Cavendish said. “I think we’ll continue trying for the green jersey with wins now. Luck hasn’t gone our way, but we’ll continue to try to win here.”