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Monday, April 15, 2024

No ‘Thor de France’ this year, either

Norwegian cycling veteran Thor Hushovd wasn’t chosen to be part of his team’s starting roster at the Tour de France this year. He was chosen only as an alternate, and he’s disappointed. “I really wanted to be part of it,” Hushovd told Norway’s TV2.

Norway's own cycling star Thor Hushovd won't be starting in the Tour de France this year. PHOTO: BMC/Tim De Waele
Norway’s own cycling star Thor Hushovd won’t be starting in the Tour de France this year. PHOTO: BMC/Tim De Waele

Hushovd, age 35, rode in every Tour de France for 11 years until he was knocked out by a mysterious virus last year. He won the green jersey twice, and also has 10 stage victories to his credit. The cycling world champion from 2010 signed a contract to ride for the BMC Racing Team starting with the 2012 season.

When BMC unveiled its starting roster for the upcoming Tour de France that starts rolling in Corsica on June 29, however, Hushovd wasn’t on it. General manager Jim Ochowicz said the final list of nine riders and three alternates taking part in the 100th edition of the Tour de France was the culmination of a nearly year-long process.

“Selection starts the day after the previous Tour in regards to evaluation, and we take into final consideration the course design and performance and health issues leading up to this point,” Ochowicz stated in a press release. “The evaluation of that information was used to select nine athletes and three alternates, who equally earn a right to take the start. But for any one of several of the selection criteria, they (the alternates) just didn’t get there.”

BMC built its roster around Cadel Evans, who won the Tour de France in 2011, and even called the other eight riders around him his “supporting cast.” Some Norwegian cycling experts think BMC’s tactic of concentrating on its star riders and expecting other riders to help them along the way led to Hushovd’s alternate status. “Thor may not be the best helper to meet that goal,” Alexander Kristoff, a 25-year-old Norwegian cycling for the Katjusja team in the Tour de France, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

BMC has “two big stars on the team (Cadel Evans and Tejay van Garderen),” added Kristoff, who won a bronze medal at last summer’s Olympics that Hushovd also missed. “Thor has delivered good results in the tour earlier, but needs help himself to get them. He’s a man for the flat stages and the team has chosen different priorities.” Evans himself stated that BMC was keen to be “a lot stronger in the mountains than in past years.”

Lars Petter Nordhaug, another Norwegian riding in the Tour de France for the Blanco team, said he wasn’t surprised that Hushovd didn’t make the starting roster. “I was a bit unsure he’d be chosen,” Nordhaug told NRK. “I had hoped he would, but I wasn’t super-surprised.” Nordhaug said Hushovd had known since Tuesday that he wouldn’t be riding this year, so had some time to digest the disappointing news before BMC finally released its roster on Saturday.

Hushovd told TV2 that he thinks his “variable” performance last year and this spring (he was second to another Norwegian cycling star, Edvald Boasson Hagen, in another event just last week) is the “natural reason” for BMC’s decision. “They’re afraid I’ll have a bad day in the mountains during the tour, and will fall out,” Hushovd told TV2.

Norwegian cycling commentators said they hoped Hushovd would get over his Tour de France setback and even speculated that BMC has made a mistake. “I think he’s in much better shape than many think,” TV2’s cycling expert Mads Kaggestad told Aftenposten.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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