Hushovd paves way for Farrar win at Tour de France
Redon, France: Thor Hushovd is the world champion, wears the race leader`s yellow jersey and has 10 Tour de France stage victories.
With such an impressive record, he wasn`t exactly expected to play the role of the perfect teammate to help road companion Tyler Farrar race to his first stage victory Monday in cycling`s biggest event.
Hushovd`s devotion to Farrar, who dedicated his win to late best friend Wouter Weylandt, gave Garmin-Cervelo manager Jonathan Vaughters more reasons to celebrate on July 4 after the American-registered outfit snatched a second consecutive stage victory.
When asked if he had ever seen a world champion in a yellow jersey leading out a teammate, Vaughters said: "Never seen it, have you?"
"The guys are just working so hard for one another," Vaughters added. "You can`t ask for more than that, they`re putting faith in one another and that`s what`s making the difference. It`s a team sport where the individual wins."
Farrar became the first American to win a Tour de France stage on July 4, dominating the sprint finish after benefiting from Hushovd`s perfect lead-out.
"Yeah, an American winning on Fourth of July, that`s pretty good — I just thought of that," Vaughters said. "We`re going to have to read the Constitution in the bus or something."
The powerfully built Hushovd, who is not competing for the best sprinter`s green shirt this year, retained the leader`s jersey he took following Garmin`s win Sunday in the team time trial.
"Chapeau to Thor, because with the yellow jersey I would never oblige him to work for Tyler," Vaughters said. "He wanted to do it, he chose that. That`s very impressive on his part. It says he`s a generous person and it says he`s a great, great person."
Farrar, one of the world`s best sprinters, made a "W`` with his two hands after crossing the finish line of the 123-milestage between Olonne-Sur-Mer and Redon. Frenchman Romain Feillu was second, followed by Spain`s Jose Joaquin Rojas.
Weylandt, who died in a crash this year in the Giro d`Italia, was Farrar`s best friend since they were teenagers.
"This has been a horrible last two months with everything that happened in the Giro," Farrar said. "I`ve had a lot of ups and downs. But in the end, I wanted to be able to come back, and do something special to pay tribute — and this is certainly the biggest stage in the world to do that."
"It`s a little bit unbelievable to me at the moment that it actually happened."
Vaughters said that Farrar, who retired from the Giro following the Belgian`s death, was so shaken by his friend`s tragic end that he spent almost two weeks without riding his bike.
"And sleeping 20 hours every day," Vaughters said. "And totally, totally demoralized."
Farrar returned to competition at the small Ster ZLM Tour, and raced last month in the Criterium du Dauphine Libere.
"There he definitely suffered but he started to regain his condition," Vaughters said. "I was never going to push him to be back on the bike. If he could only come back for the Vuelta or next year, I would understand. I simply said: `Tyler when you are ready, we are ready to support you.` That simple, really."
In Monday`s finale, Mark Cavendish`s HTC-Highroad team lined up to escort the British speedster to the finish from near the 2.4-mile mark, but by the last few hundred yards, Hushovd and Farrar had zoomed ahead.
"To have the world champion and yellow jersey work for you to launch the sprint, it`s crazy," Farrar said about Hushovd.
At the finish, Farrar — who has won stages in all three grand tours — and a pack of riders clocked the same time: 4 hours, 40 minutes, 21 seconds.
The top standings didn`t change: Hushovd retained a split-second edge over Garmin-Cervelo teammate David Millar of Britain, while Australia`s Cadel Evans of BMC was third, a second back.
Defending champion Alberto Contador of Spain, who didn`t lose time for the first time on this Tour, was 69th overall — 1:42 behind the Norwegian leader.
"The team has been fantastic and I thank each of my teammates," Contador said. "They protected me every single kilometer through the stage. Yesterday they were also exceptional during the team time trial and we hope to continue this way until the end of the Tour."
Among other hopefuls for victory on the Champs-Elysees on July 24, 2010 runner-up Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, the leader of Leopard-Trek, was eighth overall, 4 seconds behind Hushovd.
Hushovd isn`t expected to hold the lead through the mountains. With such a narrow lead, he could even come under pressure to hold the coveted leader`s jersey Tuesday, when the pack travels 107.1 miles from Lorient to Mur de Bretagne with a steep, 1.2-mile finish.