Ochowicz clarifies: Hushovd will ride Tour de France, but will play team role
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Friday, August 12, 2011

Ochowicz clarifies: Hushovd will ride Tour de France, but will play team role

by Shane Stokes at 1:48 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
BMC Racing Team president clarifies Evans’ earlier comments

Jim OchowiczFollowing comments earlier today by Cadel Evans where the Tour de France champion said that he didn’t want the BMC Racing Team to ride for a sprinter in the Tour, its president Jim Ochowicz has elaborated on the statement.

Some interpreted Evans’ comment as meaning new signing Thor Hushovd couldn't ride the Tour, but the American chief said that he would be an important right-hand man for the Australian rider while also chasing stages.

“We are pretty clear on what we are doing. Someone may have misinterpreted Cadel in what he might be saying,” he told VeloNation. “Cadel is clearly the leader of the team and we have one objective, and that is to defend the Tour next year.

“Certainly the selection of the riders will be based on several things including the route, about which we don’t know details yet. As was the case this year, we won’t have a sprinter on the team. But I don’t put Thor Hushovd in the sprinting category…he is obviously a sprinter, but he is not a Cavendish or Greipel or Petacchi-type of a person. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a chance to win a stage, but it’s not going to be with a leadout, and it is not going to be with the team chasing all day. However it never happened like that with him anyway this year.”

Hushovd previously based his Tour de France successes and two green jerseys around his performances in bunch sprints. Although he won his world title last year from a group, he is no longer one of the very quickest riders in the peloton, and so Ochowicz doesn’t see a conflict.

He envisages the big Norwegian as adopting a similar tactic to this year’s Tour. “The stages he won were in breakaways, and he would adopt a similar tactic. He did a great job and it was of big benefit for the team. I would see Thor Hushovd being Cadel Evans’ perfect team-mate, and I think Cadel would have the same opinion. You saw him this year at the Tour working pretty hard for Farrar; he has proven he can be a team player, so I am excited.”

Tour de France aside, Hushovd is particularly motivated by the thoughts of chasing Paris-Roubaix success. He had hoped to win the Classic this year in the rainbow jersey, but those plans unravelled. That was partly due to his Garmin-Cervélo team-mate Johan Vansummeren being clear in a break, but also because Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) was extremely strong. The team opted to give Vansummeren his chance, recognising that it was the best opportunity for success.

Ochowicz said that he didn’t want to take anything for granted, but that he hoped Hushovd would be a big contender for the race. “It is six, eight months away and I am not going to make any predictions right now,” he said. “But he is a favourite and we are hiring him for that function. If he is healthy and everything is ready to go, then yes, he is the guy [for the team].”

Providing both are in the race, Hushovd would line out alongside George Hincapie, who has for a long time also dreamt of winning the Hell of the North. Much as Hincapie’s fans would like to see their rider take the race, most would probably accept that Hushvod has shown better form in recent years. Both would likely have their chance, but Hushovd’s age and recent history would see him as a bigger favourite.

What wouldn’t be clear is how things would fit if Philippe Gilbert joins the team, as has been heavily tipped for some time. The rider and his agent have narrowed down the team search to just two; the BMC Racing Team, and Quick Step. Of those, BMC is thought as being further ahead and more likely.

If the Belgian does come on board, his similarities to Hushovd’s characteristics suggests that there is potential for overlap. That could in theory lead to frustrations, even if Gilbert has indicated he is unlikely to ride Paris-Roubaix in the immediate future.

At this point in time, Ochowicz doesn’t want to speculate on how things would balance out between the two big guns. “We are not in a position to talk about that stuff yet - if it does happen, we will cross that bridge when it presents itself,” he said.

“Right now we know Thor is coming, we are happy about that and he is going to be a big asset for the organisation. That’s both in the Spring Classics that we also focus on, and in the Grand Tours…he has got great experience.”


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