By Kirsten Robbins in Modesto, California
Jean-Paul Van Poppel, Cervélo TestTeam's head directeur sportif, was pleased with his team's performance when star sprinter Thor Hushovd won stage three in the Tour of California. According to the former Dutch sprinter, the lead-out was meant to be a test – and they all passed.
"We were not counting on a win, it was just to practice and try to bring him to a good result," Van Poppel said about his squad's first opportunity to come together and practice a lead-out for Hushovd. "The win was a very nice surprise. We knew he could do it if given a proper lead-out. The whole team worked for it."
The last three riders in the Cervélo train included Hayden Roulston, Dominique Rollin and Brett Lancaster. The trio began to line up alongside teams Quick Step and Columbia-Highroad. Strong contending sprinters included Mark Cavendish (Columbia-Highroad), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), JJ Haedo (Saxo Bank), Freddy Rodriguez (Rock Racing), Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream).
"We knew we had to save the fast boys for the last couple of kilometres because there were six or seven sprinters here and five teams that could potentially do the last five kilometres well," Van Poppel said. "We knew it was going to be difficult to do – in the end our boys were stronger than the rest today."
Hushovd made a name for himself in the sprinting world when he won the green jersey for the best sprinter's competition in the 2005 Tour de France. He won the last stage of the Tour on the Champs d'Elysées a year later and also the Gent-Wevelgem Classic.
"Thor is a super sprinter and he's in the super-strong category," Van Poppel said. "He's not a sprinter who can do it on his own. He needs a good lead-out because he's not good in the bunch or good at looking for his own position. Our lead-out guys are all big boys who can ride for a couple of kilometres super-fast."