Dropped on stage three of the Critérium du Dauphiné and a non-starter on stage four, Thor Hushovd has accepted that he won’t ride this year’s Tour de France and said that his goal now is to work out what is wrong with his body, return to good health and prove that he still has a future in the sport.
Hushovd is in the final year of his current contract with the BMC Racing Team and has already stated that the squad has told him he will not be retained. He is consequently searching for a new team. He knows that his chances of finding one will be greatly improved if he can post some results before the end of the season.
Riding well in the Tour de France would have been the best way to do that, but he accepts that isn’t an option. “I am not ready here in Dauphiné and this is too close to the Tour de France,” he said. “So I just have to accept that I can not be ready for that race. With the shape that I have now I can give nothing to the team, so it is better that I find out my issues.”
The former world champion moved to the BMC Racing Team in 2012 and had a quiet first season, with health issues hampering his form and causing him to abandon the Giro d’Italia and miss both the Tour de France and the Olympic road race.
He had a better start to 2013, taking stage one of the Tour du Haut Var, but was passed over for Tour de France selection. Motivated to prove that was a wrong decision, he clocked up a run of successes, including victory in the Norwegian national championships, plus a stage of the Tour of Austria, two stages in the Tour of Poland, two stages and the overall in the Arctic Race of Norway and stage one win of the Tour of Beijing.
That boosted his morale and even if he hasn’t taken a victory since, the current season appeared to be going solidly until recent weeks. His results including second on a stage of the Tour of the Mediterranean, plus fifth and eighth on stages of Paris-Nice, ninth in Gent-Wevelgem and second and sixth on stages of the Tour of California.
Fifth on stage two of last month’s Tour of Belgium suggested that his form was holding solid, but something was clearly way off in the Dauphiné.
Hushovd has won time trials in the past but could only finish 148th in the Lyon race against the clock. He dropped almost one and a half minutes to the winner Chris Froome, and finished twenty minutes back in 154th place on stage two.
Stage three saw him concede another sixteen minutes, and made clear to him that he needed to find out what was up.
“I am sure there is something wrong,” he admitted. “I don’t really feel in races this year that I have been feeling normal. When I am normal I can at least follow the bunch and sometimes make results.”
Acknowledging his physical state brings with it an acceptance that he must put his ambitions on hold for now, missing out again on the biggest race in the calendar. “It is another year without the Tour de France, unfortunately,” he said.
Hushovd will undergo medical tests to try to work out what is amiss, and will then decide with doctors what he needs to do to recover. Once that’s done – and he will hope it’s sooner rather than later – he has a general objective in his mind.
“I would just like to finish the season good. Make some good results, some wins if it is possible,” he said. “And to help the team if they need me on some races.”
He also wants to prove a point, to underline that at 36 he still has more seasons in the peloton. “[I want] to show again to everybody that my time is not over. And especially show that to myself, because I had some really tough months where I pushed my body a lot, when the body was not working on my side.
“I just want to find out what this is happening.”