Photo Special: Good-Bye Thor Hushovd
Photo Special: Thor Hushovd hung his wheels up in September after illness made him stop short of the World championship road race which was to be his last race. Double World champ, Yellow jersey holder, stage winner and hard man on the cobbles. We celebrate his full career in pictures.
The big problem with doing a photo resume of a rider like Thor Hushovd (for me) is the amount of good photos of him either winning races or putting the pressure on in the big races. From about 50 pics I’ve whittled it down to these great shots from Cor Vos.
We all know how good Thor was in a sprint and on the pavé of Belgium and Northern France, but he started of as a time trialist, Under-23 World TT champion in 1998, but in the same year he also won the U23 Paris-Roubaix and Paris-Tours. He became a stagiere at the end of 1999 for the French Crédit Agricole team, becoming a full Pro in 2000 and staying with the team until the end of 2008.
In 2000 his high point was 6th place in the Sydney Olympic Games individual time trial behind Viacheslav Ekimov. No wins in his first Pro season, but second placings in the GP du Denain and a stage of Bayern Rundfarht. He was on form in the German stage race as he took placing’s in the top 7 in every stage except one and finished 4th overall. 5th in the HEW Cyclassics and two top ten stage finishes in Tirreno-Adriatico weren’t bad either.
Four wins in 2001 and he rode his first Grand Tour and was part of the winning team in the team time trial and 4th in stage 1 of the Tour de France. 4th in Paris-Tours and good placing’s in Bayern Rundfarht, Paris-Nice and the Etoile de Bessèges showed he was on the way up. The wins were: Overall in the Tours of Sweden and Normandie and Paris-Corrèze, plus the points jersey in Normandie.
He didn’t finish the 2001 Tour, but in 2002 he took a stage win and 5th and 7th positions and finished 7th in the green jersey. A stage win in the Tour de l’Ain and top ten’s in the Tours of Méditerranéen, Etoile de Bessèges, Paris-Nice and the Critérium International. He still had not found his Classics legs though.
More wins in 2003: GP Jef Scherens-Leuven and stages in the Dauphiné Libéré and the Vuelta a Castilla y León. Loads of top tens from Qatar and all through the season. No Tour stages, but he was 4th in the point jersey, a warning for the future.
2004 was a big season with the Norwegian National road race and time trial championships. One Tour stage win along with stages in the Dauphiné and the Etoile de Bessèges. Other wins in the GP Denain and the Tour de Vendée, but the best pointer for the future was 11th in Kuurne, 17th in Roubaix and 2nd in the Tour Green jersey. The big Norwegian maybe didn’t win stage after stage, but he was very consistent. He rode the Olympic Games, but had problems in the TT.
Good rides in the early 2005 stage races put Thor in great form for 3rd in Milan-Sanremo, which followed on with 5th in Gent-Wevelgem and 9th in Roubaix. Then in the 4 Days of Dunkirk there was a stage win and never lower than 13th on the stages for a 6th overall, the Volta Catalunya brought him a stage and a 2nd and 3rd plus the points jersey. More stages in the Dauphiné, Limousin and the Vuelta a España boosted the tally. The icing on the cake was the points jersey at the Tour de France, no stage wins, but the Green jersey in Paris made up for all the close calls. Also the National TT championship.
On his second visit to the Vuelta a España he won the points jersey and a stage in 2006. In the Tour he was 3rd in the Green jersey but did win the prologue in Strasbourg and the last stage in Paris. He held the Yellow jersey despite a bad crash that needed stitches in his arm. In the Classics he won Gent-Wevelgem, 4th in Paris-Tours, 13th in Sanremo and 14th in Flanders. More stage wins in the Dauphiné, Catalunya and Tirreno-Adriatico, plus the points jerseys in Catalunya and Dunkirk.
2007 was a lean year with Giro d’Italia and Tour de France stage wins. As always there was a raft of top ten placings, but just the two wins and ‘only’ 4th in the Tour’s Green jersey competition.
2008 was the last year for the Crédit Agricole team and was better when it came to wins for Thor. A stage in the Tour, Dunkirk and Méditerranéen, add to that the prologue, a stage and the points jersey in Catalunya and the prologue and the Points jersey in Paris-Nice it was a good season at the stage races. The Classics where not so successful with his best place being 3rd in Het Volk, with 9th in Sanremo and 15th in Wevelgem.
A new team in the shape of Cervelo gave Thor the inspiration in 2009 he was maybe missing in the last years with Crédit Agricole. The Tour Green jersey was his again with a stage win into Barcelona and 12 top ten finishes. There was some controversy when Mark Cavendish made a switch on Hushovd in the sprint and was relegated to last place. The next day Thor soloed to the win and took two intermediate sprints, sealing his lead in the points jersey. Stage wins in Catalunya, Missouri, Poitou Charentes and California filled the season. In the Classics he had his best year by winning Het Nieuwsblad (ex-Het Volk) and 3rd in both Sanremo and Roubaix, 4th in the E3 and 5th in GP Gippingen.
2010 was a mixed year of highs and lows. First Thor broke a collarbone in a training accident, but then when he raced hard, it was for the win. World road race champion has to be the highest high point, then a stage win in the Tour and Vuelta, 2nd in Paris-Roubaix, 6th in Sanremo and the Norwegian National road race championships. There weren’t many wins, but they don’t come much bigger than the World champion.
In the 2011 Tour de France he took the Yellow jersey and held it to stage 9 through some hard mountainous stages. Two stage wins and in 10 stages he was in the top ten. A stage win in the Tour of Britain and the Tour de Suisse, his year with Garmin was over and it was time to move to BMC for the last three years of his career.
In 2012 Thor came down with a mysterious medical condition, eventually it was diagnosed as a virus with muscle inflammation. He started the Giro d’Italia, but only finished 4 stages. 14th in Paris-Roubaix was his best result in the Classics. A lost season.
2013 was better, but it was starting to look like the end was near. He wanted to ride one last Tour, but it wasn’t to be. Stage wins in Austria, Beijing and Haut-Var, plus two in Pologne and four and the overall and points jersey in the Arctic Race of Norway was a good result after the previous year. First in the National road race and second in the time trial toped the season.
In 2014 he had quite a few race days, but no wins were forth coming. His last race was the Primus Classic Impanis – Van Petergem on the 20th of September where he finished 48th. There were a couple of 2nd places; California and Méditerranéen and two more in the Arctic race and that was how he left the sport.
Thor Hushovd had a strong character and when he puts his mind to something, then it will happen. Look at the day in the 2011 Tour de France when he was at the front over the top of the Col d’Aubisque and went on to win the stage.
I’m glad to say I had two opportunities to interview Thor, once in 2012 and then again in 2014. Both times he was open and very affable, but there was that Thor stare that was quite unnerving. On reflection he was probably thinking through the question, but I wouldn’t want to see him angry!
Good luck to Thor in whatever he does in the future, I’m sure he will do it 100%.