Thor Hushovd defended the yellow jersey in Tuesday’s hill-top finish after a gritty performance that saw the world champion ride mano-a-mano with the world’s best climbers.
Hushovd sprinted to sixth in the 172.5km fourth stage atop the Mur de Bretagne third-category climb in a windy and rainy day when the Norwegian dug deep to defend his narrow, one-second lead to stage-winner Cadel Evans.
“I am very, very happy to keep the maillot jaune. It was a very hard climb up to the finish line and I was really on my limit,” said Hushovd, who claimed the yellow jersey with Garmin-Cervélo’s team time trial victory in stage 2.
“The main objective today was to defend the yellow jersey. It was a very hard stage, with wind and narrow roads, but the team did a great job to defend me until the base of the final climb.”
Hushovd proved yet again he’s one of the world’s best climbing sprinters when he hung tough with the top climbers and GC riders up the final two kilometers of the stage.
Defending Tour de France champion Alberto Contador attacked to reduce the field, but Hushovd gave everything he had to not be dropped under the attacks from the lean climbers.
“It was one of my best performances to stay there against these climbers,” Hushovd said.
“I am very happy with how I rode today. With about 400 meters to go, it leveled out a little bit and I even thought that perhaps I could win the stage, but that thought lasted about one second. I was truly on my limit and to keep this jersey means a lot to me and to my team.”
A five-man breakaway tore clear early in the hilly stage around France’s verdant Bretagne region. Rain and cooler temperatures made the stage even more challenging.
Garmin-Cervélo’s Tyler Farrar — hot off his victory in stage 3 — won out of the bunch behind the lead breakaway at the day’s intermediate sprint at 92.5km to pick up more points in the hunt for the green jersey.
The break was reeled in to set up the bunch for the final run up the Mur de Bretagne climb. Ryder Hesjedal, David Millar, Christian Vande Velde and Tom Danielson all finished in a group of riders at just eight seconds back.
Hushovd said the team will try to defend the jersey as long as possible.
“The goal now is to try to defend the jersey for as many days as possible,” Hushovd said.
“We have the climbing stage at Super-Besse on Saturday, so maybe we can keep it until then. That would mean a lot of work for the team, so we will discuss it to see what’s best. Now we can take it day-by-day and enjoy this yellow jersey.”
Farrar will likely get another crack at victory in Wednesday’s 165km fifth stage from Carhaix to Cap Fréhel. The rolling stage hits France’s northern coast where crosswinds will be a factor and ends with an uphill kick ideal for Farrar’s sprinting style.