Stellar climbing keeps Hushovd in Tour de France lead

Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo) retained the leader's yellow jersey after one of his best ever performances in the Tour de France. The Norwegian hung tough with the peloton over the second category climb of Col de Croix Saint-Robert and hung on during the final climb to Super Besse in the stage 8 finale, keeping his one-second general classification lead over Cadel Evans (BMC).

"To be honest, like what I said after the stage yesterday, I didn't think I could stay in yellow after this stage, even if deep inside I had plans to try. I also said I would do everything I can to defend the jersey," he said after pulling on the maillot jaune again.

"But you know I have good form – the best form I've ever had – and that allows me to go really deep and get everything out of my body and of course that's what I did again today. It gives me motivation again to keep the yellow jersey on my back. "

Coming into the stage, it was expected that Garmin-Cervélo would relinquish their grip on yellow, which they took after the team time trial on stage 2, and the American ProTour squad did little work on the front of the bunch during the stage, profiting from the work of the likes of BMC, Astana and Omega Pharma-Lotto, who were all within touching distance of the lead.

Finishing 16th on the stage, Hushovd was given the same time as Evans and GC contenders Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Sungard) and Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek), but had an anxious wait before he was confirmed as the race leader.

"It's not that I didn't care, but I have been happy with my Tour de France so far and since I didn't expect to stay in yellow after the stage, if I lost it I would not be disappointed. I gave everything again today so of course when I heard my name I was happy again."

Hushovd, who based his 2009 points classification win in the Tour de France around solid climbing performances, pointed out that this base in Monaco has helped him train for parcours similar to today's stage.

"I live in Monaco and it's easier there because I have mountains to train on, and over the last three years I understand it's no longer possible for me to beat riders like Farrar and Cavendish in a flat sprint. So last year I have been working a lot in the mountains and I really like an uphill sprint now. And I think the training I'm doing at home in Monaco is good and I'm no longer afraid to be with the best riders and sometimes to attack on the climbs."

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