By Jean-François Quénet with additional reporting from Ben Atkins
After Carlos Sastre, Thor Hushovd is the second big name of the Tour de France signed by the newly born Cervélo Test team. The Norwegian has signed a two-years contract with the Swiss-based organisation set to be directed on the road by Scott Sunderland and Jean-Paul van Poppel.
Hushovd, one of the fastest and most consistent sprinters in the sport has won six stages of the Tour de France, including the prologue of the 2006 race and stage 2 this year. He also won the green jersey in the 2005 race. The three-time Norwegian champion has ridden for the Credit Agricole team since turning professional with them in 2001. Unable to secure a sponsor to replace the French bank which ends its support at the season's end, the team was forced to allow its riders to seek contracts elsewhere.
"I've had long discussions with the board and although it's a new team, I've had a very good feeling about it," Hushovd told Cyclingnews from his home in Switzerland. "They want to run this team in a new way. They'll focus on the results but also on the material. We'll try all the equipment. I will also have the best support for the Classics and the sprints in the Tour de France."
After nine seasons at Crédit Agricole, a team he intended to never leave until it failed to find a new sponsor, the winner of the Tour de France says he's "ready for the big adventure". "I want to thank Roger Legeay for all the great years I've had with him," he added. "I really appreciate the way he runs a team and his drugs free policy."
Although the season is not yet over for the French team, the Norwegian will not get another chance to wear the green and white in competition again. Advised by Crédit Agricole team doctor Joël Ménard, he decided to call it a season after receiving the results of the blood test he underwent last week following his abandon in stage 4 of the Deutschland Tour.
"It showed that I hadn't recovered from the Tour de France yet," he lamented. "It's a pity because I know that the course of the world championship suits me this year. I wanted to give Crédit Agricole one more win before leaving. I even thought of riding the Chrono des Nations at the very end of the season, but I promise my fans to come back even stronger next year with the goals of winning a big classic and the green jersey of the Tour de France again."
"We are very pleased that Thor has decided to join Cervélo TestTeam. With him we have another leadership figure on our team," said Thomas Campana, General Manager of the new Cervélo TestTeam. "With his outstanding skills, Thor will be a key rider for us, not only in competition but also in product development for Cervélo, Zipp, Speedplay, Vittoria, 3T and the other industry partners that will join us in the next few weeks. On top of that, he is a very likeable person and our customers and clients will be excited to spend time with him."