MUR-DE-BRETAGNE, France (VN) — There were a lot of surprised faces at the finish line Tuesday. Cadel Evans said he was surprised he won, especially after his bike was destroyed in the closing 20km and he was forced to chase back on when the pack was in full flight.
Alberto Contador was dismayed that he didn’t win the stage after attacking most of the way up the short, but steep finale.
But the biggest surprise of all was Thor Hushovd, whose tenacity and strength kept him in the yellow jersey by one second to Cadel Evans (BMC). The world champion was on the rivet, but he clawed his way into the leading group of 10 riders to carry the maillot jaune into Wednesday’s fifth stage.
“I really couldn’t believe I kept it when I saw Contador and Evans starting to attack,” Hushovd said. “I was really at my limit to stay with them. The maillot jaune gave me extra motivation. I will do everything I can to defend it as long as possible.”
Hushovd proved yet again he’s one of the best in the world at getting up short but steep climbs, but this time he was more interested in not losing the wheel than challenging for the stage victory. He said at one moment with about 400 meters to go he thought he might have chances to win the stage, but those thoughts lasted for “one second.”
“The big objective was to defend the yellow jersey today,” he said. “I knew it would be difficult. I had my doubts and when I looked at the results sheet later, I was surprised to see that I could stay with those guys.”
Hushovd’s big push kept the Garmin-Cervélo dream Tour on track. The team is still flying high from winning Sunday’s team time trial that put Hushovd into the yellow jersey and Tyler Farrar’s breakthrough sprint win Monday.
“Everything is perfect for us right now,” Garmin sport director Lionel Marie told VeloNews. “We had some nice moments the past few nights, with some good wine and some good song. It was important to celebrate as a team, with all the staff members and everyone together who work to make this possible.
“Now we have to get back to work. Tomorrow we will ride to defend the yellow jersey again. Today the peloton was riding to break us. Lotto and BMC were driving hard. They wanted the jersey, the stage. Thor proved he is strong enough. Thor said, ‘if I am 100 percent, I can defend the jersey.’ He did it. It’s something incredible!”
Tuesday’s hilltop finish was a major hurdle for Hushovd and now the road could be clear all the way to Super-Besse in stage 8 in the Massif Central. Marie said the team can ride to defend the yellow jersey and to set up Farrar for another possible stage victory.
“Our first objective is to defend the yellow jersey because it is so important,” Marie said. “Today was the difficult stage for Thor. We will take the race day-to-day, but we could keep the jersey for a few more days. We will have Farrar for the sprints. It’s a perfect scenario.”