Milan-Sanremo: Hushovd says he’s back to his old level, ready to challenge
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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Milan-Sanremo: Hushovd says he’s back to his old level, ready to challenge

by Shane Stokes at 9:31 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Milan-Sanremo
 
Norwegian insists that three leaders are better than one for big Classic

Thor HushovdAfter missing Milan-Sanremo last year due to illness and poor form, Thor Hushovd was upbeat at yesterday’s pre-race press conference, saying that he feels that he is back to his usual high level and ready to challenge for the win.

He was third in both 2005 and 2009 and reaching the top step of the podium is a major career goal for him.

The big Norwegian has proven many times in the past that he is good on tough courses such as that offered by today’s Classic, and his background means he is also used to adverse weather conditions. Those two factors mark him out as a favourite for today, and so too his strong finish.

“It is nice to be here and healthy. I just feel like everything is back to normal,” he said yesterday. “I think last year’s problems started one year ago from today on. Now everything is much better. I felt during Tirreno that I found back my level from a couple of years back. I really look forward to racing and to being in front in the final and to hopefully be there for the win, either for myself or somebody else from the team.”

Hushovd won a stage in the Tour du Haut Var and finished fifth overall there, thus confirming he was over the health issues of last year. He also showed good form in Tirreno-Adriatico, netting eighth on stage three to Narni Scalo and then finishing in the big chase group on the tough penultimate stage to Porto Sant’Elpidio.

The latter took in some very tough hills and was also run off in freezing weather, both factors he is facing today in Sanremo.

Hushovd’s chances may also be boosted by the fact that he is part of one of the strongest teams in the race. While he will share top billing with world champion Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet, he believes that having three leaders is a clear plus for the team.

“For sure it is an advantage, because we can play on different things and share the work a bit. Instead of having two or three guys pulling, we can put somebody in the break,” he said. “If there is an attack on the Cipressa, maybe one guy will follow there. If there are attacks in between or up the Poggio, Phil or someone can go there and I can maybe follow in the groups behind. If it back comes together, I am there for the sprint.”

He is clear that having more options is better than being on a team with just one captain. “If somebody has a bad day, has bad luck they are out,” he said. “We have more cards to play. Of course, we will make the tactics tomorrow [Sunday] but we just have to make a plan for the last couple of kilometres if it comes back together.”

Today’s race has been run off in awful weather conditions, with freezing temperatures and snowfall on part of the route forcing the organiser to cut out the Turchino pass. The riders have been transported by team bus from kilometre 117 to kilometre 163, thus missing out on 46 kilometres in all.

While this will enable them to warm up somewhat before the race restart, they will still face bitterly cold temperatures between that point and the finish. Speaking yesterday, Hushovd said that experience could count for much in adverse circumstances.

“If it is wet, cold, raining or snowing it is going to be a harder race, because it takes more energy out of the body,” he said then. “It is probably going to be a longer race in hours because it just takes longer in wet conditions. So it is going to have a role, of course, but again we just have to use our experience when we have cold and wet conditions, eating and drinking up and making sure we are not too cold. We will need to save energy.”

He is one of the most experienced riders in the peloton and also one of the toughest. Coming from Norway should hand him an advantage, in terms of being able to deal with tough winter conditions; we’ll see in a few hours if all the factors pay off in his favour, and result in him winning the race for the first time.

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