By Jean-François Quénet in Lido di Camaiore
With the majority of Giro bunch sprints controlled by Alessandro Petacchi and his Milram train, Crédit Agricole's Thor Hushovd has been frustratingly close to a stage win on several occasions, and the Norwegian believes his turn for glory is not far away. Once again on Stage 9, New Zealand champion Julian Dean brought Hushovd to the front alongside Paolo Bettini and Robbie McEwen, then Angelo Furlan took over as the last lead out man but Hushovd could only finish a disappointing sixth.
"It was a really good try though," Hushovd said of his team's tactics. "We started too early, which was a bad choice, I had to wait, wait and wait before I was able to accelerate. Petacchi passed me but he wasn't any faster, I was just up there too early."
Furlan was also bitter. "In theory we did it well and we should have won," he said. "Unfortunately we faced a strong head wind and that played against us. It was the first time that Julian and myself formed this lead out. We must be patient. Next time we'll win it."
Initially Furlan joined Crédit Agricole as the team's sprinter for the Giro, but at the end of last year Hushovd convinced team manager Roger Legeay that he needed practice against the world's best sprinters before the Tour de France, something he has never previously had despite being a regular stage winner at the Four Days of Dunkirk, Tour of Catalunya and Dauphiné Libéré.
For the 2007 Tour de France, Crédit Agricole are once again focusing on two goals: sprinting and climbing. Directeur sportif Denis Roux hinted that Australian sprinter Mark Renshaw, who recently won Stage 2 in the Tour of Picardy, may get his first start in the Grand Boucle if he can ride convincingly through June.