Lourdes is the place of miracles in France. The Vatican officially recognizes 67 acts of “miraculous healing” and we can now add number 68 — sprinter wins hors categorie mountain stage.
I got a pizza there last night past midnight after a horrific traffic jam on the road down from Luz Ardiden. That was yet another miracle.
The fact is, Thor Hushovd was one of the last riders we expected to see arrive early on the final HC climb of the COl d’Aubisque. He figured he’d be back in the autobus chatting with friends.
Instead, he came up through the mist on a mission, tracking down French climber David Moncoutie (Cofidis) and the rabbit out front, Jeremy Roy (FDJ). A strong man sprinter leaving Contador, Evans and the Brother Schleck down the mountain.
The Aubisque is over 16 k long and the majority of the pain is at 6 to 9%, with the ramps at the top maxing out even worse. Yet here is the Paris-Roubaix hardman, jamming up the mountain. COuld Mark Cavendish or even Hushovd’s teammate Tyler Farrar pull off such an epic feat?
Hushovd would showcase his descending skills in catching Moncoutie ripping down the Soulor. He then dropped the Cofidis rider and with three kilometers remaining, he dispatched Roy and rode to a solo victory in Lourdes.
After a slow start to Hushovd’s season and a rough transition with the Garmin organization, things seem to have turned almost miraculously. A yellow jersey in the tour and a stage win while wearing the rainbow jersey of world champion.
“It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever done,” said Hushovd. “I was happy to be in the break. I was obviously strong. I went on the attack on the Aubisque so that I could ride at my own pace. My goal was to come back on the descent, which I finally managed to do. It’s incredible how quickly things have turned for me. Yesterday and the few days before I was feeling tired, but I did the right thing yesterday by taking it easy and losing quite a lot of time. I think that saved my legs and that’s why I won today.”
Saving legs, saving souls — that’s what they do in Lourdes. Garmin-Cervelo always has a revelation for us in the Tour de France. Vande Velde, Wiggins, Hesjedal, Tom Danielson and now Hushovd’s wild ride up the Aubisque.
Chapeau with some rosary beads on top.