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By Andrew Hood
For a guy who would rather be somewhere else, Thor Hushovd is making the most of a bad situation.
Not bad for a guy who’d rather be in Italy.
“I would have preferred to have raced in Tirreno-Adriatico because there are more stages suited for me, but my team wasn’t invited,” Hushovd said. “This year’s Paris-Nice is especially difficult, so only Monday and Tuesday are likely to finish in sprints. I couldn’t be in Tirreno, so I have to do the best I can with what I have here at Paris-Nice.”
His victory in Amilly on the wet and windy prologue course confirmed him as one of the best in short, non-technical races against the clock. The victory gave him his first yellow jersey since winning the prologue in Strasbourg in the 2006 Tour de France.
On Monday’s weather-shortened stage, he proved he was in no hurry to give it up. His Crédit Agricole team kept him protected through horrendous weather and Hushovd surged to third behind Gert Steegmans (Quick Step) to carry the yellow jersey into Tuesday’s second stage.
“Even with the shortened stage, it was a very hard day. My team always kept me near the front, but with the crosswinds, it was a horrible day,” Hushovd said of Monday’s stage into Nevers. “Everything went well enough until the final sprint when I got caught behind (Philippe) Gilbert. But after watching Steegmans attack so impressively, I had no chance to win anyway.”
For the 30-year-old Hushovd, all this French glory is nothing but an appetizer for what he hopes will come later this month.
The Norwegian has pegged his entire classics season on a strong showing at Milan-San Remo (March 22) and started training harder and earlier than ever before.
That newfound dedication is already paying off with some promising early season results. In addition to Sunday’s prologue win, he claimed a stage at the Tour Mediterrenean in February and snagged third at Het Volk.
“Milan-San Remo is my first major objective of the year and I really want to win it this year,” he said. “Our team wasn’t invited to Tirreno or the Giro, but I love racing in Italy. I’m optimistic about Milan-San Remo. Every year I’ve learned more about the race. I want to be there for the finish.”
If his start at Paris-Nice is any indication, Hushovd will likely be there for the finale in San Remo.