Thor Hushovd (BMC Racing Team) ended a frustrating victory drought today with a win in the opening stage of the Tour du Haut Var. The 35-year-old Norwegian had not stood on the top step of the podium since September 14, 2011, where he won stage 4 at the Tour of Britain.
Much was made of the 2010 world champion's move to BMC in 2012, but a virus and muscle inflammation kept Hushovd sidelined for the bulk of the season in which he totalled just 28 race days. His best result of 2012 was a fifth place finish in stage 7 at Paris-Nice in a season which came to a conclusion in mid-July when we was unable to finish the Tour of Poland.
Having now scored his first victory in BMC colours, Hushovd breathes a sigh of relief in what he hopes is a harbinger of better days ahead for his 2013 campaign.
"This is really big because last year was frustrating and mentally hard," Hushovd said. "I didn't know what was wrong and to say no to the Tour de France, the Olympics and the Worlds and not do anything for the team was not a good feeling. So I have been very grateful to the team the whole time for supporting me."
Hushovd had already notched a pair of top-10 finishes in field sprints this season, and a strong lead-out from his BMC teammates put the Norwegian in perfect position in the 152.7km stage's finale.
"The whole team was supporting me well in the end and on the last lap they were riding hard to bring a couple of riders back," said Hushovd. "Daniel Oss and Manuel Quinziato brought me to the front with 200 meters to go and then [Tom-Jelte] Slagter tried to jump me in the end, but I still had a last gear to respond."
While Hushovd also picked up the Tour du Haut Var leader's jersey with his stage victory, Sunday's concluding stage isn't favourable to the Norwegian strong man, but BMC has other options to play to keep the jersey within the squad.
"We haven't discussed the plan yet, but we know it will be really hard, like a mountain stage," said BMC assistant director Fabio Baldato. "We have a number of options and good climbers here like Mathias Frank, Amaël Moinard and Dominik Nerz."
Frank, Moinard and Nerz all finished in the same time as Hushovd in the 54-man lead group in today's opening Tour du Haut Var stage.
Following the Tour du Hart Var, Hushovd will start next Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad as BMC's co-leader along with Greg Van Avermaet. The Belgian one-day race is the kick-off to Northern Europe's cobbled Classics and its a race Hushovd won in 2009.