During the penultimate mountain stage Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam) regained the green jersey from Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini). The Norwegian road champion worked his way over the four giant climbs featuring in stage 16 and made it into the yellow jersey group that sprinted for tenth place in Pau. Hushovd won the sprint and gained six points for the green jersey competition, putting him four points ahead of his Italian rival.
Even though the stage profile didn't seem to benefit the sprinters since the two intermediate sprints were situated after the Col de Peyresourde, Col d'Aspin, Col du Tourmalet and Col d'Aubisque, Hushovd explained that he did seize the moment to take some extra points over his rivals.
"It was an important day. I knew it was a good chance to try to get some more points," Hushovd said. After struggling on the Col de Peyresourde and the Col d'Aspin early on Hushovd recovered as the speed in the yellow jersey group dropped significantly. On the legendary Col du Tourmalet the Norwegian even jumped clear from this group, before getting dropped near the top.
Teammate Carlos Sastre helped him through these tough moments and on the Col d'Aubisque the Norwegian managed to stay in touch with the yellow jersey group. "The team did a great job helping me get over the climbs. With the break up the road, we knew there were some points waiting at the finish line. It's important to take many whenever you have the opportunity. The green jersey always comes down to who is the strongest rider over three weeks," Hushovd said.
Tomorrow he will surely feel the pain from today's actions but the rest day comes at the perfect moment for Hushovd.
Alessandro Petacchi, the now-former green jersey wearer, has been in the picture on a non-sportive side today - being linked to the Padova investigation - and the Italian didn't try to follow Hushovd, finishing in the gruppetto nearly 30 minutes after the Norwegian. "Petacchi is the most dangerous rival," Hushovd said, although with two sprinter's stages left also Mark Cavendish could still be a threat.
Sastre seeks stage win
Hushovd's teammate Carlos Sastre hasn't been performing as expected regarding his general classification ambitions and the 35-year-old Spaniard has switched his attention to stage wins. During Sunday's stage to Ax-3-Domaines he made a late effort that was countered by the accelerations in the yellow jersey group.
On Tuesday the Spaniard was active again as he featured in the highly rated lead group that went clear on the Col de Peyresourde. On the Col d'Aspin Sastre was working hard at the front of this group but once his breakaway and the yellow jersey chase group merged at the foot of the Col du Tourmalet it was time for Sastre to sit up.
"I was looking again for the breakaway, like always. We went to the maximum but it didn't work out. We went over two climbs, but the gap was hovering around 25-30 seconds, and no one really took enough digs to make a real difference," Sastre said. "Finally, I decided to stop because I realized it would be difficult to stay away."
Others stayed away, though, and at the conclusion of stage 16 Chris Horner (RadioShack) and Ruben Plaza Molina (Caisse d'Epargne) gained enough time in the decisive break to bump Sastre down two positions on general classification where he now occupies 15th place overall.