By Jean-François Quénet in Adelaide
Thor Hushovd was perfectly positioned to win his first race of the year in the final stage of the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under. With 200 metres to go into the last stage, his Crédit Agricole team had helped put him right where he needed to be for the finale, but Allan Davis, Robbie McEwen and Simone Cadamuro passed him before the line. "I was given a fantastic lead out by my team-mates," said Hushovd. "But at this time of the year, I don't have the speed yet."
Crédit Agricole had tried to do the same for their new signing Mark Renshaw at the inaugural criterium, but none of the team's sprinters was actually ready to take on the fast Australians fastest men although Jaan Kirsipuu and Julian Dean also lined up. However, they looked happy with the work they did in Australia, especially Hushovd who took part in the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under for the first time. "I've done 1500 kilometres here in Adelaide," the Norwegian said. "I don't have the speed yet but I'm in good shape before heading back to Europe. For two days, I've suffered the heat badly, I'm still happy with my week of racing though. I was told this was the friendliest race in the world for professionals, now I can say it's true. With everyone staying at the Hilton in Adelaide, we get to know each other, something that just doesn't happen in Europe."
Hushovd's 2005 victory in the Tour de France green jersey contest put an end to three years of Australian domination (Robbie McEwen in 2002 and 2004, Baden Cooke in 2003), but the 'God of thunder' was nevertheless warmly welcomed by the local cycling community.
"I'll be back," he promised before leaving Adelaide. "I think I'll ride the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under every year until the end of my career."
Hushovd turned 28 during the race, so he still has a few trips to South Australia ahead of him, and there's no reason for his Crédit Agricole team not to come back; they've been one of the races landmark since it was created in 1999.