Thor Hushovd critical of Norwegian team’s two-captains policy
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Monday, September 26, 2011

Thor Hushovd critical of Norwegian team’s two-captains policy

by Ben Atkins at 10:03 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, World Championships
 
Outgoing World champion gets no chance to defend his title after being caught behind mid race crash

thor hushovdThe big crash on the thirteenth of seventeen laps during Sunday’s Elite men’s World championship road race ended the chances of a number of riders, but the biggest name to lose out was that of Norway’s defending champion Thor Hushovd. Despite numbering more than fifty riders, there was no way that the riders caught behind the crash would be able to rejoin the main peloton, as it happened just at the moment that the big teams of Great Britain and Germany began to up the pace and reeling the race’s long breakaway.

With Hushovd now effectively out of the race, the Norway team switched to its other captain Edvald Boasson Hagen. With only four men at the start, the Scandinavians had little chance of successfully pulling the dropped riders back up to the accelerating peloton, and so the two allocated domestiques, Kurt Alse Arvesen and Gabriel Rasch, turned their attention to looking after the 24-year-old Team Sky rider.

Boasson Hagen managed eighth in the sprint, behind Great Britain’s Mark Cavendish, but Hushovd still sees the Norwegian tactics as having failed.

“I think that in the next World championships we should have one captain,” the Garmin-Cervélo rider told dagbladet.no, “when things are clearer, and it’s much easier for everyone to relate to.”

While he thinks that the two-captain strategy of Sunday failed, the 33-year-old does not say who the one protected rider should be in Limburg next year.

“Next year is a completely different course, and we will have to see who is in the best shape, who is prepared, and who the course suits.”

This season was far from Hushovd’s best, despite some spectacular results, and it was not until mid-June that he took his first victory of the year, in the Tour de Suisse. Following the stage two team time trial in the Tour de France though, which was won by Garmin-Cervélo, he took the yellow jersey and held it for seven days.

After losing yellow on the crash-strewn stage to Saint-Flour – where it was taken by Europcar’s Thomas Voeckler – Hushovd responded by taking two stage victories; the first of which was after the stage had crossed the Aubisque, while the second saw him outsprint Boasson Hagen in a three-man break.

His fourth victory of the year came in the Tour of Britain earlier in the month.

edvald boasson hagenBoasson Hagen, on the other hand, has had a far better season, particularly in recent weeks. The 25-year-old matched Hushovd’s two stage wins at the Tour then, in a stunning two week spell, won the Eneco Tour and the Vattenfall Cyclassics.

By Hushovd’s own criteria of form, Boasson Hagen should have been the team’s protected rider anyway. Despite this, the outgoing champion still feels that the team should have ridden for him.

“If both of them [Rasch and Arvesen – Ed] had dropped back then I think maybe we could have done it,” he said.

One issue though, was one of communication, and that the rest of the Norwegian’s were not initially aware that Hushovd had been delayed. With the World championships being raced without radios, riders had to communicate with each other, and with their team managers, the old fashioned way.

“Gabba [Rasch] came back to me and said that he couldn’t find Thor,” said Norway’s team manager Steffen Kjærgaard. “When we got back up to the peloton, Kurt had given up looking for us and was back with Edvald again.”

Had he known about it anyway though, there was little that Rasch could have done to help his captain.

“For me alone it was not possible,” he said. “Not even close. “Had there been some more of the other favourites back there, and several of the major teams had had the same interest, then it would have been possible.”

Unfortunately for Hushovd though, while the dropped group contained a number of big names – including newly crowned World time trial champion Tony Martin of Germany – virtually all of the favourites were up front and the action was just starting.

“It was in the final stages of the race,” Rasch explained. “The whole Sky [Great Britain – Ed] was ahead and pulling. The Belgians attack, the French attack. We were going 50 to 60kph, so I don’t know if we could have done it, even with a moped.”

Hushovd’s main regret though, is that he was not able to put up a real defence of his rainbow jersey, on a course that should have suited him better than the Melbourne/Geelong course that he won on last year.

“It’s boring to finish a World championship race and not be tired,” he said. “I was by far in a way the form that I wanted to be in; I felt good, that’s what’s so disappointing.

“A crash is a good excuse to escape from a bad result,” he added. “But the crash kept me from a good result.”

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