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Monday, May 27, 2024

Tour cyclists mourn terror victims

Norway’s two top cyclists – Thor Hushovd and Edvald Boasson Hagen – concluded a successful Tour de France with black arm bands in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks in Oslo and Utøya. The two talented riders are predicted to continue their success in the years to come, but will now return to Norway to mourn the victims of the attacks.

Thor Hushovd after winning another stage of the Tour de France, and before his homeland landed in sorrow after Friday's terrorist attacks. "Everyone in Norway must stand together," he later said. PHOTO: Team Garmin-Cervelo Photos

The 32-year-old Hushovd, predicted as Norway’s best hope for a win before the competition began, started the Tour brilliantly, winning Stage 2 and holding the Yellow Jersey for a week up until Stage 9. He went on to win two further stages – Stage 13 and Stage 16 – coming 68th overall and fifth in the Points Classification that traditionally favours the best sprinters.

Boasson Hagen, the younger rider at 24 years old, won Stage 6 and Stage 17 of this year’s Tour, the first stage wins of his career. He ended up 53rd overall, finishing sixth in the Points Classification.

The Tour pauses in remembrance
But the last stages of the Tour were overshadowed by the terrorist attacks at home in Norway. Moved by what had occurred, Hushovd reportedly took the initiative to ensure that the tragedy was marked by the riders. All 167 participants in the race removed their helmets and bowed their heads for a one minute’s silence before the final stage. The director of the Tour de France, Christian Prudhomme, took the Norwegian riders in hand to lead them to the front of the race. They were also joined by those holding the various jerseys worn by race leaders, including overall leader and Yellow Jersey holder Cadel Evans. Hushovd’s Team Sky also joined the Norwegians in racing with black armbands.

Describing the one minute’s silence observed before the final day’s ride, Boasson Hagen commented to newspaper Aftenposten that “it was good to participate in the marking of the events that showed that all Tour de France cyclists support those that are suffering at home in Norway.” Speaking at the end of the Tour, he added that “it is difficult to envisage when one is in the middle of a cycling event in Paris that I will travel home to a country in mourning.”

More to come – from both riders
Looking to the future, a former Norwegian professional cyclist, Dag Erik Pedersen, suggested to Aftenposten that Boasson Hagen can “absolutely” be in line to win the Yellow Jersey “in two to three years.” He believes that Boasson Hagen has the “potential to crack the combined code” by bringing together his various talents, describing him as someone who “can win sprints, go alone in the mountains” and race with a “very high tempo.” Boasson Hagen was ranked third in the world as early as 2009, and has won the Tour of Britain, the Tour of Oman and numerous Points Classifications for his sprinting ability.

Hushovd, now 33, confirmed before the end of the Tour that he hoped to continue the “wave of success” that he has been enjoying by competing for at least another three to five years. He described his “main goal” as “to win a big classic, and preferably Paris-Roubaix,” pointing to the fact that this year’s winner Cadel Evans is, at 34 years old, older than him.  He nonetheless sees his Road Race World Championships win last year as his greatest achievement – he became the first ever Norwegian to win a world championship gold when he triumphed in the gruelling 260 kilometer race in Austrailia.

Speaking of the tragic events at home in Oslo and Utøya, Hushovd told broadcaster TV2 that he felt that is was “right to continue riding” but that his thoughts were with those affected. “Everyone in Norway must stand together,” he concluded.

Views and News from Norway/Aled-Dilwyn Fisher
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