Of the galacticos added to owner Andy Rihs’ firmament at BMC during in the winter of 2011, Thor Hushovd’s star was supposed to shine most brightly in the cobbled classics, but at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, the Norwegian finds himself in a supporting role.
Speaking at the team’s pre-race press conference in Kortrijk on Friday, Hushovd was bluntly honest in assessing why Greg Van Avermaet leads BMC at De Ronde instead of him. After two spring campaigns undone by a lingering illness, Hushovd feels that he simply has not done enough to earn that status.
“If you want to be the leader, then you have to perform as a leader. I haven’t done that but Greg has done it for the past three years so it’s normal that he is the leader on Sunday,” Hushovd said. “But it’s still my goal to be there in the final. If you have more riders in the final then it’s better for all of us.”
BMC’s line-up includes two Tour of Flanders debutants, Taylor Phinney and Silvan Dillier. Hushovd, by contrast, is saddling up for his 13th Ronde, but he laughed off the idea that he was by now something of a Flandrian.
“I think if I’d won it once, I’d feel more like a Flandrian,” he said. “I didn’t know I’d done it that many times. I’m happy to be part of BMC to support Greg here. He’s been our strongest rider for these kind of races and I think we have a really strong team in general. We’re going to race aggressively and try to be there with a few riders in the final.”
For the first time since joining BMC, Hushovd showed sustained flashes of form in the second part of last season, landing another national title, winning a brace of stages at the Tour of Poland and then adding another WorldTour victory at the Tour of Beijing.
The 36-year-old is without a win so far this season, however, and endured disappointing outings at Milan-San Remo, where he failed to make the front group for the finishing sprint, and E3 Harelbeke, where he opted to abandon midway through. A 9th place finish at Gent-Wevelgem two days later, a race he won in 2006, was important for his morale as Flanders and Paris-Roubaix approach.
“I’ve been feeling good. I was unhappy after E3 but Gent-Wevelgem went much better. My form is on the up,” said Hushovd, who was enigmatic in describing his reasons for abandoning at Harelbeke. “I went left at a corner and the bunch went right,” he smiled.
While Van Avermaet is the man designated to go on the offensive for BMC in the finale, Hushovd posited two scenarios whereby he might be in a surprise position to claim a result for himself – either by a large group contesting the finish in Oudenaarde, or by inserting himself into a midrace break to upset the odds, as his then Garmin teammate Johan Vansummeren did so famously at Paris-Roubaix three years ago.
“You’ve seen in bikes races that anything can happen. It’s possible that a bigger group can come back or else maybe I can follow the moves and stay away. That’s my chance,” he said.
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