|Hushovd claimed the yellow jersey for the third term in his career. He also wore it in 2004 and 2006 [Reuters]|
Thor Hushovd swapped his world champion’s jersey for the Tour de France yellow thanks to his Garmin-Cervelo teammates who won the 23-km second stage of the race, a time trial, on Sunday.
The American team covered the windswept course in 24 minutes 48 seconds, at an average speed of 55.6 kph, beating another American outfit, BMC, by four seconds, while British Team Sky were third in the same time.
“The world champion jersey and the yellow jersey are the best two jerseys in cycling and to wear them the same year is just incredible,” Hushovd said. “Thanks to the team for the win, thanks to the team for the jersey.”
The Norwegian took the Tour reins thanks to his third place in Saturday’s first stage, pushing out teammate David Millar, who now lies second overall in the same time.
The Scot, who did more than his share of the job to lead the Garmin team to their first Tour de France victory, had no hard feelings.
“The guys were so strong I felt like the weakest guy there,” he said. “Thor is just a great rider. Not everybody can claim the world champion and the yellow jerseys at the same time. He’s also a great guy, with a nice temper, always relaxed.”
For Garmin-Cervelo team manager Jonathan Vaughters, who launched the Slipstream outfit in 2007 with a strong anti-doping stance, the win was a major achievement.
“To win our first stage as a team is even more significant. Now we’re going to defend this yellow jersey like we stole it,” he said.
Hushovd has twice won the Tour points classification green jersey, in 2005 and 2009. The Norwegian has also held the yellow jersey twice before – in 2004 for a day and 2006 for two days.
His lead could be short-lived again as he is under threat not only from Millar but also from Australia’s Cadel Evans, now third one second behind the two Garmin-Cervelo teammates.
Evans, second behind Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert in the first stage, had to settle for second again with his BMC teammates.
Evans also seized the yellow jersey as a world champion for a short while last year before being forced out of the Tour through injury.
“The first goal was not to lose time. And then it was to gain time,” said Evans, the Tour runner-up in 2007 and 2008.
The Australian was particularly happy to finish ahead of his major rivals for the overall title, though Andy Schleck’s Leopard Trek team finished fourth in the same time as Evans’s BMC.
Alberto Contador, who has beaten Schleck to overall victory in the past two years, lost 24 more seconds to Evans and the Luxembourg rider.
“We did a good time trial but other teams are better than us,” said the Spaniard, whose Saxo Bank team contains few time-trial specialists.
Contador, three times Tour winner, had already lost 1:20 after being held up by a big crash on the first stage and he now lies 75th overall, 1:42 behind Hushovd.
“The Tour is like that. You can lose it every day, but it is won in the mountains,” he warned.
With 23 riders within 10 seconds of each other at the top of the overall standings, Monday’s 198-km third stage between Olonne sur Mer and Redon could again see the yellow jersey change hands.