Despite having won the team time trial which was followed by a seven-day stint in the yellow jersey, Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo) savoured a new emotional high by winning stage 13 of the Tour de France with an epic ride in the Pyrenees.
"I can't believe that I've done it," Hushovd said after crossing the line alone in Lourdes, almost in tears. "This is almost too much for me.
"I rode a perfect race. I attacked on the Col d'Aubisque to take some time before David Moncoutié attacked and so that I could ride at my own pace. I wanted to pass the top of the climb with no more than a two-minute deficit because I knew that I could regain one minute in the downhill."
Hushovd's descent of the Aubisque was considered one of the most spectacular moments of the 2011 Tour de France and he is considered one of the world's best descenders.
"But I didn't take many risks", said the 33-year-old Norwegian. "I even thought of my daughter Isabel. I love her a lot, she's at home, and I wouldn't do anything wrong or take too many risks. I'm just good downhill because I played a lot with my bike when I was a kid and skiing has helped me for sure as well. I can read the road. I'm not a guy who looks five metres ahead but always 50 or 100 metres, so I anticipate problems."
Hushovd hunted down lone leader Jérémy Roy (FDJ). The ever aggressive Frenchman looked set to win in Lourdes but then Hushovd jumped away from David Moncoutie (Cofidis) and blasted past Roy inside the final three kilometres.
"I had no intention to wait and sprint for second place," he said after becoming the first world champion to win a stage of the Tour de France since Oscar Freire in Sarrebrück, Germany, in 2002.
"I didn't have the success I wanted in the rainbow jersey in the Classics," Hushovd said.
"My condition was good but not the circumstances. We won Paris-Roubaix [with Johan Vansummeren], so we kind of reached our goal. But after not winning a Classic myself, I wanted to honour the Tour de France with this jersey. This is my nicest win at the Tour de France ever. To win alone with the rainbow jersey after passing the Col d'Aubisque is extraordinary. It's beyond what I thought I was able to do."
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