MUSCAT, Oman (AFP) – Reigning world road race champion Thor Hushovd has admitted his days of pushing to the front in a bid to win every bunch sprint that is within his grasp are now practically over.
But that has only served to increase the big Norwegian’s appetite for victory in the tough one-day classics that pepper the calendar during the spring, starting with Paris-Roubaix in April.
Third in 2009 and runner-up to Fabian Cancellara last year, Hushovd’s dream of winning the ‘Queen of the Classics’ has burned brighter since his rainbow jersey triumph at the world championships last September.
“My main goals for the early season are the spring classics, Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, but Roubaix is the biggest and the best,” Hushovd said at the Tour of Oman on Monday.
“I don’t know who was the last rider to win it while they were reigning world champion. But it’s more than a dream for me. It’s an obsession.”
In 2010, Cancellara provided a classics master-class on his way to adding a second career victory at Roubaix to his Tour of Flanders win the week before.
The Swiss rider’s accelerations were so impressive that one suspicious journalist suggested the Olympic and world time trial champion may have used a hidden engine in his bike.
While laughing off those suggestions, Cancellara raised the bar significantly.
This year, however, Garmin-Cervelo rider Hushovd believes he is in the form of his life.
“I’m in great condition. Much better than I was at the same time last year. I avoided illness and I did a lot of cross country skiing while I was in Norway,” he said.
“I’ll be at the forefront in Tirreno-Adriatico and the Omloop Net Nieuwsblad, which I won two years ago.”
A former sprint specialist, Hushovd made his early reputation at the Tour de France.
But nine years after his first individual stage win there, he admits he can’t keep up with the likes of Mark Cavendish.
Nevertheless, the Norwegian hinted he is ready to work on his sprint for the second half of the season, when Cavendish and several other contenders will bid to win their own yellow jersey, after a likely bunch sprint at the
championships in Copenhagen.
“I know full well it would be difficult for me to beat guys like Cavendish. Now, I belong more to the ‘classics hunters’ category of riders, more than a sprinter,” added Hushovd.
“But I know I still have to be able to sprint if I want to win certain races.
“This year, for example, the world championships in Copenhagen are a big objective for me. Just like certain stages on the Tour de France, it should finish in a bunch sprint.”