Norwegian cyclist Thor Hushovd – seen by many as the country’s biggest hope for the Tour de France – won the fourth stage of the Tour de Suisse on Tuesday, ending an eight-month period without a win.
The win is Hushovd’s first since the Road World Championships held between September and October 2010. It also comes after a disappointing spring – blamed by some on the “cursed” rainbow colours that he and other world champions currently wear, as a number of top cyclists in multicoloured gear have struggled so far this year.
Hushovd hails from Grimstad on the southwest coast of Norway, but now splits his time between his hometown and Monaco. He has earned the nickname of the “Bull of Grimstad” for his strength and strong sprint finishes to races. Also known as the “God of Thunder,” the 33-year-old used his sprinting skills to win the 2010 Road World Championships in Australia, triumphing in a sprint finish after a grueling 267 kilometer race. In doing so, he became the first Scandinavian to win at a road race world championships.
He is also the first Norwegian to win a stage at the Tour de Suisse, and the first to have ever led the Tour de France, wearing the famous “Yellow Jersey” for three days in total during his career. Between 2002 and 2010, he has won eight stages of the Tour de France, as well as winning the “Points Classification” in 2005 and 2009 – a secondary classification, seen as very prestigious for capable sprinters in particular, in which points are given for high finishes and intermediate sprint victories. Hushovd remains Norway’s biggest hope for a Tour de France win.
The world champion had set himself to goal of winning the Paris-Roubaix race in April, but ended up in a disappointing eighth place after being eclipsed by a teammate. The fourth stage of the Tour de Suisse, which lies between Grindelwald and Huttwil and spans 198.4 kilometers, was nonetheless felt to fit Hushovd’s sprinting abilities well. He managed to hold off Slovakian rival Peter Sagan, seen by many as international cycling’s biggest potential talent, in a thrilling sprint finish, crossing the line just a wheel’s length ahead of his competitor. The rider himself told broadcasters TV2 that he was “happy and proud” of the win, stating that it was down to a combination of “good legs” and taking “the right decisions.” His trainer, Atle Kvålsvoll, told newspaper Aftenposten, that “Thor is extremely good at being focused,” adding that “even if the victory has been a long time coming, he has been patient and the whole time has focused on the next race.”
With the much-coveted Tour de France beginning on July 2, Hushovd is feeling confident. He told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that his win yesterday is “very promising” and “a sign that I am on my way, and that I am quite simply in form.” He added that “it feels good to finally win again,” and that he can now “relax and work towards the Tour de France” with a “little more composure.”
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