Hushovd wins Dauphine first stage in sprint finish
GIVORS (France): Norway’s Thor Hushovd asserted himself as one of the sprinters to watch in next month’s Tour de France when he won the 224-km first stage of the Dauphine Libere in Givors on Monday.
The robust Credit Agricole rider, 27, has made a habit of winning a mass sprint in the Dauphine Libere, having done the same in 2003 and 2004.
The Norwegian champion, who beat South African Robert Hunter (Phonak) on the line, also won a Tour de France stage last year and will be one of the leading contenders for the points classification in the Tour beginning July 2.
Third place went to Spain’s Juan-Antonio Flecha of Fassa Bortolo.
American George Hincapie, winner of the prologue in Aix les Bains on Sunday, retained his overall leader’s jersey while his Discovery Channel team leader, Lance Armstrong, stayed out of trouble in the main bunch.
The six-times Tour de France champion is saving his strength for Wednesday’s crucial and telling 46.5-kms time trial in Roanne.
Given the flat and long course in Monday’s stage, the chances of a sprint finish were high but six riders tried to beat the odds.
France’s Sylvain Chavanel and Francis Mourey, Spain’s Jose Garcia-Acosta, Italy’s Oscar Mason, Dutchman Koos Moerenhout and Ukraine’s Andriy Grivko broke away after 40 kms and held a maximum lead of five minutes and 50 seconds before being caught with four kilometres to go.
The final say belonged to the sprinters and Hushovd was the strongest, surging in the last 100 metres to fend off Hunter’s challenge.
Tuesday’s second stage takes the riders from Givors to Chaufailles over 187 km. reuters