Just a day after being the most frustrated rider of the Tour de France, Thor Hushovd's chagrin turned to joy with victory at Arenberg. After stage two, he was angered by the decision not to award any points in the green jersey classification except to first-placed Sylvain Chavanel, but Hushovd responded magnificently today by winning the Paris-Roubaix-style stage.
Hushovd has now taken command of the green jersey that he carried to the Champs-Élysées in 2005 and 2009.
"I'm just happy that I managed to win after what happened yesterday," said the Norwegian champion. "I'm really pleased for myself and my team."
Cervélo TestTeam did a lot of work with no reward the day before but they were prominent again today in spite of that disappointment. Olympic champion Brett Lancaster put in a phenomenal shift to place Hushovd at the front when the race hit the cobbled sections.
"Brett was really strong," Hushovd said. "He went so fast on the pavé that I told him to slow down at some stages. He split the group. I've never seen him so strong."
When Hushovd joined Cervélo after the Crédit Agricole team folded at the end of 2008, he insisted on the signing of Lancaster. The Australian was already touted as one of the world's best lead-out men at the time, although he had never had the opportunity to work with a top sprinter at the Tour de France.
Lancaster won stage two at the Tour of California this year even before Hushovd got his first win of the year at the Norwegian championship in late June. Hushovd was second at Paris-Roubaix, but in early May his season was compromised by a broken collarbone sustained in training on Italian roads near Monaco where he lives.
"I was never sure that I'd be back in time for the Tour de France," Hushovd said. "It's been hard to come back. I've been unsure of my form but at the Tour de Suisse, I found my race rhythm again."
Hushovd felt that he was the big loser in the protest led by Fabian Cancellara en route to Spa on Monday. It was a huge missed opportunity for him to take a significant lead in the points classification since his two biggest rivals Mark Cavendish and Tyler Farrar were off the back.
"I put that bad feeling out of my mind when I went to bed yesterday," the man from Grimstad said. "But of course I spoke with Cancellara about that in the bunch today. I did not want to make a big deal out of it, but half of the peloton came to me and said that if they were in my position, they would have sprinted. But I understand the riders' feelings because of all the blood from the crashes. Now I want to forget about that. I've won and I'm in the green jersey again."
With 63 points while Cavendish only has one after three stages, Hushovd is already comfortably in the lead, while the next three stages might well be ideal for the sprinters.