By Jean-François Quénet in Paris
Thor Hushovd is a man for something new every year. He debuted in the Tour de France in 2001 and won the team time trial. In 2002, he won his first individual stage with two days to go in Bourg-en-Bresse. 2003 was his most frustrating Tour when he unsuccessfully paired with Stuart O'Grady. In 2004, he wore the yellow jersey for the first time and won his first bunch sprint in Quimper. In 2005, he didn't win any stage but claimed the green jersey. This year, with the prologue, two days in yellow and the final stage on the Champs-Élysées, it's all new again.
Hushovd stopped focusing on the green jersey when he got relegated in Caen after a strange decision by the commissaires that even the 'victim', Bernhard Eisel, didn't agree with. Hushovd also gets noticed for his misfortune. He became famous for cramping after a breakaway in 2002; this year, he shocked a few people with the incident of the green hand/camera at the end of stage one. His arm was cut, he collapsed after the finishing line, and suffered from this injury all the way to Paris, although it doesn't bleed anymore. "The improvement on my scar shows how long the Tour is!" Thor joked after winning in Paris.
"It's always good to win a stage in the Tour de France," he continued. "But for a sprinter, winning on the Champs-Élysées is extraordinary. I've dreamt about that for such a long time. I've suffered like hell in the Alps and the Pyrénées but I kept thinking of the Champs-Élysées as a motivation for staying in the race."
He looked even more delighted than when he was in yellow. "Wearing that jersey and winning a stage give different feelings, he said. Leading the race is good but it's not a win. Winning here is the best symbol for a sprinter. With one kilometre to go, there was a hole in front of me, Sébastien Hinault closed it, then Julian Dean overtook everyone else for me until I took Robbie McEwen's wheel. He opened the sprint but I was stronger than him today. I was just stronger than anybody else."
See you next year for another invention by Thor, the thunder God!