Thor Hushovd frustrated at missed opportunity as crash snuffs rainbow-jersey defense

"I am very disappointed. I missed a big opportunity today," Thor Hushovd told Norwegian journalists. "I felt very good all day and I am not tired now. That's frustrating."

2011 UCI World Road Championships, crash in men's elite road race.

COPENHAGEN (VN) —Thor Hushovd will never know if he had the legs to challenge Mark Cavendish for the rainbow jersey in Sunday’s elite men’s world championship race.

The defending champion saw his hopes of defending the world crown deflate when he was caught behind a crash with less than six laps to go on the 17-lap, 260km race.

Hushovd couldn’t hold back his frustration when he crossed the line 170th at 8:54 back.

“I am very disappointed. I missed a big opportunity today,” Hushovd told Norwegian journalists. “I felt very good all day and I am not tired now. That’s frustrating.”

Racing without race radio, Hushovd was stranded by his three fellow Norwegian teammates because they realized too late that the defending world champion wasn’t with the front group.

By the time they did, there was no going back to try to help tow Hushovd. Edvald Boasson Hagen also started the race as a protected rider and when he was safely tucked in the first group, Norway quickly readjusted its tactic to rally around its second option.

That meant Hushovd was isolated in the chase group without teammates. When the gap grew to nearly two minutes with two laps to go, Hushovd knew his dreams of repeating were over.

“Kurt-Asle (Arvesen) and Gabriel (Rasch) didn’t know what happened. There was no radio,” Hushovd said. “They got the information too late. You cannot blame them for that.”

Hushovd explained that he drifted toward the back half of the peloton after coming through the feed zone. The peloton split when the riders crashed near the back of the bunch. Bodies and bikes completely blocked the road.

Hushovd also punctured, forcing the big Norwegian to wait several minutes before a wheel change.

Boasson Hagen later sprinted to eighth in the long drag race to the line, but admitted he didn’t have the legs to truly challenge for the rainbow jersey.

“This is one of the longest races I’ve made a sprint. I got on the wheel of (Philippe) Gilbert and then (Fabian) Cancellara, but it was too tough for me in the end,” Boasson Hagen said. “I spent a lot of energy in the end trying to stay in the front. It was still a good race. I am young and will have more opportunities.”

That might not be the case for Hushovd, who turns 34 in January.

Hushovd couldn’t help but question the team’s tactics of splitting the small, four-man squad between two leaders.

“We had two captains and our team is too small for that,” Hushovd said. “Next time we should just have one captain. It will be easier for everyone if we do that.”

One thing is certain; Hushovd’s already vocal opposition to the idea of eliminating race radio will surely harden after Sunday’s bad luck.