This year’s Tour has had an international feel to it with eight different nations winning stages so far. Topping the wins by nation are two countries you may not expect to see up there. Great Britain and Norway.
Mark Cavendish has taken all four wins for the Brits as his sprinting dominance continues, while Thor Hushovd and Edvald Boasson Hagen have taken Norway’s. Add to that tally Hushovd’s week in yellow and the Scandinavian nation has had a phenomenal race so far.
Hushovd and Boasson Hagen’s two wins each have all been impressive, and three of them have been intertwined. Boasson Hagen’s stage six sprint win in Lisieux was ahead of Hushovd on a stage the world champion was targeting.
Hushovd’s win in Lourdes came after he attacked a group that Boasson Hagen was in. That he couldn’t keep up with Hushovd on the Col d’Aubisque apparently annoyed the younger of the two no end. Then Hushovd’s second win in Gap yesterday was entirely at his compatriot’s expense as he opened up his winning sprint a fraction of a second after the Sky rider visibly relaxed.
Hushovd wasn’t involved today, but the lesson he dealt Boasson Hagen in Gap yesterday fuelled the Sky rider’s determination today. “Yesterday he felt he should have won, and he was gutted last night,” Sky’s team principal Dave Brailsford said. “Edvald doesn’t do gutted, but he was gutted last night.”
“He woke up this morning and that was it, he went with every move. He was away for 40km first thing, Garmin chased it down and he was in the next move straight away. We were thinking ‘blimey, he’s done a bit too much here’, but he was unstopable today.”
Spending two consecutive days in the break on mountain stages rarely ends with a victory, just ask Jeremy Roy. But Boasson Hagen proved the exception to the rule when he attacked the break on the viciously steep Cote de Pramartino at the end of the stage to solo to the win.
If he was fuelled by frustration from yesterday he also had the confidence of knowing what was coming. After the Critérium du Dauphiné in June the whole of Sky’s Tour squad (except Ben Swift) based themselves at altitude in Sestriéres for a week and reconnoitred these three Alpine stages. They rode the Pramartino climb and perhaps more crucially the descent, several times.
Considering his exploits the day before his win in Pinerolo will go down as one of the most impressive wins at this year’s race. He has now won a bunch sprint and alone in the mountains. All this after his Tour participation was thrown in to doubt the week before the race started.
Having won the Norwegian time trial championships on June 23, he pulled out of the road race three days later after being diagnosed with Shingles. This just two days after being named in Sky’s Tour team.
The viral disease can result in painful blisters. Although Boasson Hagen didn’t have these the disease was in his system and he was instructed to do nothing but rest if he was to make it to the Tour a week later. That weekend Brailsford sent him a text almost every hour during the day, checking that he was resting.
Asked if he had now recovered Brailsford said, “If he hasn’t he certainly didn’t show it today!”
Tour de France 2011: Stage wins by nation (excl team time trial)
Great Britain: Four
Tour de France 2011: Related links
Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index