‘Thor-iffic:’ Hushovd hailed all weekend

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There was seemingly no end to the superlatives after Norwegian cyclist Thor Hushovd won another stage of the prestigious Tour de France on Friday. “Historic,” “majestic” and “incredible” were among the words used to describe Hushovd’s performance, and newspaper headline writers had lots of fun.

This photo of Thor Hushovd was taken after winning another Norwegian championship. Now he's the world champ and stunned spectators with a decisive victory in the Tour de France on Friday. PHOTO: Teamhushovd.com/Tim de Waele

The plays on words were gleeful, if hard to translate into English. Newspaper VG had among the best: “Sthor Hushovd” screamed its headline, a play on the Norwegian word for “big” or “great” (stor) and the cyclist’s first name. Aftenposten used the word for incredible, utrolig, to pair with Thor, so Views and News could only attempt to follow with its humble attempt at branding Thor Hushovd as terrific.

Few would argue that he was on Friday, after he broke away from the pack, raced over a mountain “like a mountain goat” as Aftenposten wrote in describing his power and self-assurance, and then raced downhill like a wild man even though he seemed always under control. Hushovd, it was claimed, showed new sides of his already-well-known talent to cycle to a crushing defeat of his competition.

And when he sailed over the finish line alone, way ahead of his closest rivals, he was thrilled, too. “To come in alone is something I’d never experienced before,” Hushovd told reporters. “It was just fantastic.”

He noted that he “knew the mountain well from before” and knew that its grade rose around 4-5 percent at the beginning of the course. That’s why Hushovd chose to surge ahead early, “and then I eventually found a surprisingly good rhythm.” He called Friday’s victory a new high point in his career.

Hushovd, who won the World Championships in cycling last year, became the first reigning world champion in 10 years to win a stage of the Tour de France, in addition to the honor of wearing the yellow jersey for the fastest overall time for nearly a week. Among his first reactions to his accomplishment on Friday was to admit that “I got chills” as tears of joy welled up in his eyes.

The 33-year-old cycling champ is now being called a living legend in Norway, and hailed for boosting the sport of cycling to new highs. No one, claimed commentator Espen Hansen in Aftenposten, has done so much “here at home for one of the world’s really big sports” as Hushovd has done over the past 10 years. Hansen rhapsodized over how Hushovd cycled majestically over the finish line at Lourdes, and has made cycling one of the most popular sports in the country, right up there with skiing. Nearly a half-million Norwegians watched Hushovd cycle to yet another victory on TV2, while recruitment is soaring in line with bike sales. Now it’s time for his coach, Atle Kvålsvoll, to get some recognition as well, urged Hansen. Last year, Kvålsvoll from Trøndelag wasn’t even nominated for the annual “Coach of the Year” award in Norway. “That mistake simply can’t be made again,” Hansen admonished.

Hushovd, claimed nearly all local media outlets, “is in a class by himself” and fans at home look forward to see him compete in Kristiansand, Sandefjord and in his home town of Grimstad later this month. Ironically, his pending appearance in the third Oslo Grand Prix won’t happen. The event, which drew 70,000 spectators last year, had to be cancelled because organizers forgot to apply for permission to hold the Oslo Grand Prix on its planned date of August 16. The university plaza that was to be used as the start and finish area had already been booked for a special concert.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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