LEON, Spain (VN) — Thor Hushovd (BMC Racing) continues his comeback this week with the five-day Tour Méditerranéen along France’s Côte d’Azur.
The 2010 world champion raced for the first time since July at last month’s Tour de San Luís in Argentina. After missing most of 2012 with a virus and muscle inflammation that forced him out of the Olympics, the 35-year-old Norwegian is using these early races to springboard back into top form.
“I want to be ready for the spring classics,” Hushovd told VeloNews. “I have not raced for a long time, but I have been training hard. The goal is to be back in time for the classics, which are my favorite races of the year.”
Hushovd described 2012 as a “year I would like to forget.” Addled by fatigue and illness, Hushovd went through fits and starts in 2012, his first year with BMC Racing.
In what was by far his worst season since turning pro, the 2012 campaign saw no notable results from Hushovd, who pulled out of the Giro d’Italia and later started neither the Tour de France nor the London Games.
In September, after consulting with team doctor Max Testa in his clinic in Utah, Hushovd finally pulled the plug entirely on training and spent weeks simply resting.
“There was a point when all I could do was simply stop and let my body recover,” Hushovd said. “I tried a few times to come back, but I was never myself. I didn’t have strength and my body needed time to get healthy again.”
Hushovd, who lives in Monaco, says he knows he’s back in good form based on sensations from early-season training sessions. His training partners often include teammate and Monte Carlo neighbor Philippe Gilbert.
“I usually like to climb, but last year, when I was training on hills, I could barely get up them,” Hushovd said. “Now I attack the hills. I can tell I am becoming myself again.”
The five-day Tour Méditerranéen will provide Hushovd with a good chance to test his progress. The race loops along France’s Mediterranean coast along a hilly parcours that includes a 24km individual time trial and a hilltop finale up the first-category Mont Faron above Toulon.
Hushovd will have a heavy spring classics racing schedule. Starting with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in late February, the Norwegian will continue his quest for an elusive monument.
“One of the things missing from my career is winning a big, one-day classic,” Hushovd said. “If I could choose, I would pick Paris-Roubaix. It’s the race I love most. But any one of them would be fine.”
Hushovd said a start at the Giro d’Italia was “unlikely” and that he’s hoping to earn a spot on BMC Racing’s Tour de France squad before preparing for the world championships in Italy.
“This season is important because I want to get back to being myself in the races,” he said. “I am not worried. Others have come back from more serious injuries. Of course, I have to prove it in the races.”
The 40th edition of Tour Med is drawing a top field, including French stars Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland (Europcar), Pierrick Fedrigo (FDJ), and Christophe Le Mevel and Rein Taaramae (Ag2r La Mondiale).
Andy Schleck, another rider on the comeback trail, continues his return to racing with RadioShack-Leopard with hopes of finishing the race. Schleck debuted at the Tour Down Under, but punctured early in the final stage on a circuit course and could not regain contact with the bunch.
Andrew Talansky makes his season debut with Garmin-Sharp. Hot off seventh last year at the Vuelta a España, Talansky returns to Tour Med, where he rode to fourth in his 2011 debut in the pro ranks.
2013 Tour Méditerranéen (France, 2.1)
Stage 1: February 6, Limoux to Gruissan (146.5km)
Stage 2 ITT: February 7, Cap d’Agde to Sète (24km)
Stage 3: February 8, Marseille to Saint Rémy de Provence, (159km)
Stage 4: February 9, Rousset to Mont Faron (145km)
Stage 5: February 10, Bandol to Grasse (192km)