Hushovd focused on green, sees sprint chance for stage 10

Tour de France points leader Thor Hushovd believes today’s Stage 10 will allow him the chance to extend his lead over Columbia-HTC’s Mark Cavendish in the race for the green jersey. The big Norwegian managed to snatch the jersey from Cavendish by accumulating sprint points through the mountains stages.

“Columbia is maybe not so strong anymore than in the beginning of the Tour. They were working really hard in the first week,” Hushovd said. “So it could be easier for us or the other teams to win. I hope as well that I can defend my green jersey.”

Hushovd’s Cervelo TestTeam has indicated the green jersey is increasingly becoming a priority as its general classification bid stalls. Team leader and defending champion Carlos Sastre sits 2:52 minutes behind race leader Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) heading into the Grand Tour’s second week.

Hushovd will focus on acquiring points wherever possible, according to Cervelo sport director Alex Sans Vega. “We will work for Thor to keep the green jersey,” said Sans Vega. “The intermediate sprints will be important, so we will be vigilant and have Thor in position to contest them.”

Indicating the team’s commitment to Hushovd’s effort, Sans Vega said: “Another question is to see the strength of the sprinters after the first mountain stages. If Mark Cavendish is feeling good, we will see Columbia try to control the stages to set up sprints. If that’s the case, we will ride to support Thor all the way to the line.”

Today’s stage is largely expected to finish in a sprint, despite the potential for a successful breakaway over the up-and-down course. The French riders could push for another successful breakaway, with the added motivation of a third French stage victory in this year’s race falling on Bastille Day.

Garmin-Slipstream’s Jonathan Vaughters believes the stage could go either way. “This lends itself to a race pattern that takes a good 80 km to finally get a break off the front,” he said. “Attack after attack in the hilly, beef laden countryside of Limoges just hurts. All this said, my bet is the break will try too hard to get out there in the first place and it comes back together for a sprint, with Mr. Cavendish winning.”

Hushovd leads the points classification with 117 points to Cavendish’s 106. The contest for green is largely a two-horse race, with Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil sitting in third place with just 75 points.

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