A winner of the points competition in the Tour de France three years ago, Thor Hushovd appears on top of the list of the favourites for the green jersey this year. But he told Cyclingnews' Jean-François Quénet that the competition between the sprinters shouldn't be underestimated.
Norwegian pride in the history of cycling got a huge boost when Thor Hushovd won the stage to Quimper in 2004 with the jersey of national champion on his shoulders. The then 26 year-old stormed to the line and celebrated with his hands on the red and blue cross jersey.
Four years on from that epic victory, Hushovd flew from his home base in Switzerland to contest the national championship in Bergen. However he never made it to the start in the Hanseatic town on the west coast of the North Sea. "The first morning I woke up at home in Grimstad, I felt tired and I had a cold," he explained with regret. "I was in good form and very lean, that's probably why I was so susceptible to illness. So I decided it was a better choice not to compete at the nationals and preserve my health and my chances for the Tour de France."
He flew back to Switzerland on Sunday morning, June 29, while hearing the news that in Bergen CSC rider Kurt-Asle Arvesen won the national title once again. "The weather was crazy," Hushovd explained. "It was a very hard course and the race became harder and harder, to such a point that only eight riders finished without being lapped. When I heard about the conditions of racing up there, I had no regret that I missed it."
The critical week
He had to cancel a press conference scheduled with Norwegian media in Bergen and opted for a telephone conference in which he repeated that his goal for this year's Tour de France is to get the points leader's maillot vert again. He responded to a different variation of the same question he often hears; this time regarding the absence of sprint rival Daniele Bennati, who joined Tom Boonen – albeit for different reasons – in the ranks of the non starters.
"I don't think the absence of riders like Boonen and Bennati increases my chances of winning the green jersey," Hushovd explained. "I prefer to compete against the best riders.
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