Garmin-Cervélo won its third stage of the 2011 Tour de France in dramatic fashion as reigning world champion Thor Hushovd rode a tactically perfect race to attack over the daunting Col d’Aubisque to claim victory.
Hushovd snuck into the day’s winning breakaway and then timed it just right over the hors-categorie steeps of the Aubisque, one of the legendary climbs of the Tour in Friday’s 152.5km 13th stage from Pau to Lourdes.
“I think this is my most beautiful victory in the Tour de France,” said a very happy Hushovd at the line.
“The Aubisique belongs to the history books in the Tour and to win like I did with the rainbow jersey on my shoulders is really something special.”
Hushovd used his superb climbing and descending skills to good use in the fast transition stage over the Pyrénées. Hushovd and the breakaway arrived at the base of the Aubisique with a six-minute head start on the main pack. Hushovd then paced himself up the climb, allowing French rider Jeremy Roy to attack alone over the summit.
Hushovd then worked with French rider David Moncoutie to erase a 1:45 deficit over the summit to reel in Roy with just over 2km to go. The Norwegian then powered to the finish line to claim his ninth Tour de France stage victory.
“I am very happy to win this stage because I used a lot of energy in the first week defending the yellow jersey and that really cost me,” said Hushovd, who wore the maillot jaune for eight days.
“I paid for that effort and missed out on some other chances to win a stage. I really wanted to win a stage with the rainbow jersey and I had the chance to recover my legs the past few days. To win today is like a dream come true.”
The victory also continues the dream-like run for Garmin-Cervélo through the 2011 Tour, with three stage victories and a long run in yellow.
Team manager Jonathan Vaughters expressed satisfaction with Hushovd’s win.
“Thor got into the right move. We all know he can climb well and he’s one of the best descenders in cycling. That win was what he was after. He felt like it was his last opportunity the other day when he was third (stage 6), so we’re very happy,” Vaughters said.
“I never doubted that Thor would be at a good level this year. When he rode over the Aubisque at 1:45 down on Roy, I was pretty sure he would be able to win the stage.”
The remainder of the Garmin-Cervélo team rode safely within the main bunch and tried to use the day to recover ahead of Saturday’s decisive climbing stage at Plateau de Beille.
Tom Danielson finished with the main pack to remain well-positioned on GC. Belgian rider Philippe Gilbert bumped ahead to ninth when he attacked late out of the main group to chase points, but isn’t considered a major threat for overall victory. Danielson settled into 10th overall at 4:35 back without losing time again the top rivals.
“We hope there’s more fun to come in the coming days,” Vaughters said. “Everyone else got through the stage pretty well today. Tomorrow is going to be hard. Hopefully Tom can move up.”
The 98th Tour continues Saturday with the 168.5km 14th stage from Saint-Gaudens to Plateau de Beille. The final climb is one of the most grueling in the Pyrénées and the stage should see more shake ups in the overall standings.
Garmin-Cervélo will be riding to protect Danielson’s top-10 placing in the overall.
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