This time last year, the big Norwegian sprinter and Classic rider Thor Hushovd was getting to know his new Cervélo Test Team companions, settling into the new squad and hoping a good season was in store.
Things ultimately worked out very well, with the rider taking a number of wins including a stage of the Tour de France, the maillot vert of best sprinter plus the Het Nieuwsblad semi-Classic. The victory list was supplemented by stage triumphs in the Tours of California, Catalunya and Missouri, while third in both Paris-Roubaix and Milan-San Remo showed that his ambition of winning a one-day Monument is getting ever-closer.
“The sensations are good,” Hushovd told Cyclingnews. “I think that is because I didn’t go too deep at the end of last year, so I could recover a bit, have a long break and then start back in training. I am feeling quite good.”
In recent weeks, Hushovd did some road training from his base in Monaco, then at Christmas he switched locations and did some cross-country skiing for a change.
Preparations now begin gaining pace, starting with a team training camp in Portugal that will put the final touches on his form prior to the start of the season.
“After the camp, I’ll do Etoile de Bessèges, then the Tour of the Algarve,” he said of his schedule. “I think the next races are Het Nieuwsblad, Tirreno [Tirreno-Adriatico] and Milan-Sanremo. I will also do Flanders and Roubaix; in fact, the three main goals in the spring are Sanremo, Flanders and Roubaix.”
After taking third behind Mark Cavendish (Columbia HTC) and Cervélo team-mate Heinrich Haussler in the first of those races last season, he had another near miss in Roubaix. He was away with eventual winner Tom Boonen coming towards the finish, but hit the deck and lost his chance.
“Paris-Roubaix was good, although of course it was disappointing when I had the crash,” he said. “But the biggest [personal] success was certainly taking the green jersey in the Tour de France. That was the main highlight. It was good for the team to perform well and take two stages.”
The Tour will once again provide a major focal point in 2010. There are two possible paths towards the race; after riding Gent-Wevelgem or the E3 Prijs, he’ll then compete in either the Bayern Rundfahrt and the Tour de Suisse, or the Tour of California and the Swiss Tour.
“Then once in the Tour, the green jersey is the big target again,” he added.
Last year, the Cervélo Test Team was determined to perform strongly early on in order to ensure an invite to the Tour de France. The squad is once again depending on a wildcard to the race and with a large number of teams fighting for a place, including the new Sky and RadioShack setups, it is not guaranteed that the surprise packet of 2009 will get the nod.
Hushovd knows that the team has to produce the goods again this spring, but doesn’t appear too worried that they could be passed over.
“You never know what could happen, but I am quite confident,” he said, when asked if he envisaged any possible disappointment. “We have Carlos Sastre on the team, who won the Tour de France two years ago, and I won the green jersey last year. The team also won two stages [Hushovd and Haussler], so I can’t understand why they should not invite us. I think it should be okay.”
Providing they are there, the race is likely to be a showdown between the 31-year-old Norwegian and Mark Cavendish. The Briton took six stages last year but lost out on the chance to win his first green jersey after being declassified during the 14th stage, running from Colmar to Besancon. Hushovd ended the Tour ten points clear.
They should go shoulder to shoulder in July, and once again later in the season. Both are expected to ride the Vuelta a España in preparation for the world road race championships in Geelong, Australia. Hushovd describes the latter as ‘very important’ and said that he’d try to take the rainbow jersey, 12 years after highlighting his talent with victory in the under 23 time trial world championship.