With Thor Hushovd out of the 2012 Tour de France, many fans are missing his presence, especially after the finish atop a Cat 4 climb in Boulogne-sur-Mer, which reminded many of Thor’s win in the rainbow jersey last year:
From Chapter 5 of Argyle Armada
On paper, the day’s stage from Pau doesn’t look promising. With the 10-mile Col d’Aubisque poking up the middle of the stage profile like a circus tent, followed by 26 miles of descending into the Pyrenean foothills town of Lourdes, the stage is not selective enough for climbers like Danielson and Vande Velde. And it’s too mountainous for sprinters like Farrar and Hushovd.
Or so it seems. With 60 miles remaining in the 97-mile stage, Hushovd gets in a 10-man break. At the bottom of the Aubisque, the Norwegian makes a thunderous attack and drops everyone in the break except Frenchmen David Moncoutié and Jérémy Roy.
By the top of the 5,607-foot climb, Roy and Moncoutié return the favor by dropping Hushovd and put nearly two minutes on him. But the world champion plummets through the serpentine descent like a one-man Norwegian bobsled team and catches Moncoutié on the descent. Moncoutié sits on Hushovd’s wheel; he knows he can’t beat him in a sprint, so there is no sense helping him catch his countryman, Roy.
At the finish in Lourdes, a big screen TV shows Hushovd’s insane effort play out. Transfixed by the possibility of their man winning yet another stage, Viking hat–wearing Norwegians chant, “Thor, Thor, Thor,” and a blond woman holds up a sign that reads, “Thor Hushovd the Ox.” Their hero catches, then passes Roy. Is Hushovd, a sprinter, really about to win a Pyrenean stage? He rides across the finish line with arms aloft. Behind him, the crowd is a frenzied tableau, a Delacroix of waving pom-poms, lifted cameras, and out-of-body screaming that is almost religious in its tenor—an appropriate scene for Lourdes, a shrine visited each year by some 5 million Catholic pilgrims.
Hushovd’s Garmin GPS shows his top speed on the descent from the Aubisque is 69.59 miles per hour. After the stage, Lionel Marie, the directeur sportif in the team car behind Hushovd, tells me he has “never done a descent like that. It’s wonderful for the guys.”
When Hushovd had the gap down to a minute and a half, Marie thought there was a chance he could catch Roy, but the director was by no means certain. His eyes shining with joy, Marie recounts how “on the last roundabout, I told him, ‘Come on man, come on!’ And, phewww . . . he did it!” He adds, “I told him to enjoy this moment, because, can you imagine, he won a stage in the Tour de France with the rainbow jersey. It’s fantastic.”
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