Mighty Thor Hushovd, Norwegian national champion, once the most powerful sprinter in the peloton, showed that he still has the legs to leave the rest behind by winning the final sprint of Stage Three of the Tour de Pologne Tuesday.
The BMC rider dragged his 35-year-old body over 226 rolling kilometers of Polish countryside, kept up with the peloton as it chased down the four-rider breakaway, and then outpowered Belkin’s Mark Renshaw, former leadout rider for Mark Renshaw and a very fast sprinter in his own right.
Young Taylor Phinney led Hushovd to through the final kilometers of the very long stage. In the final km, Renshaw, seeing what was developing, squeezed between Phinney and Hushovd. It didn’t help.
Hushovd pulled out around Renshaw quite a distance from the finish line; Renshaw, seeing Hushovd move, started his sprint far earlier than usual. The big Norwegian put the power down and drew away from his opponent, opening a half-a-length lead at the line.
Hushovd also moved into the Points lead with his powerful sprint, gaiing a one-point advantage on mark Renshaw.
Garmin-Sharp’s Steel Van Hoff (yes, that’s his real name) followed Hushovd in the sprint, pulled left and nearly beat Renshaw at the line; the margin was perhaps two inches. Von Hoff is third in points, one behind Renshaw.
General Classification is still very tight. Saxo-Tinkoff’s Rafal Majka leads over Sky’s Sergio Henao by a mere four seconds, with the top eleven riders within 20 seconds.
Four riders got a way early in the stage: Aleksandr Djaczenko (Astana,) Ricardo Mestre (Euskaltel-Euskadi,) Mirko Selvaggi (Vacansoleil,) and Bartlomiej Matysiak (Polish team CCC Polsat Polkowice). These four got a gap of over ten minutes, and very nearly made it to the end—they were inside the final 1500 meters when getting caught.
Belkin had the strongest leadout train when the catch was made, but American Taylor Phinney turned himself inside out to drag Hushovd to the front, and the “God of Thunder” rumbled his way to the win.
Stage Four, though long (231 km) and hilly, will probably end with another sprint. GC won’t get sorted out until Thursday’s Five, with three cat One and Three cat Two climbs, or Friday’s Stage Six, five 38-km laps around a route full of climbs—ten Cat Ones.
The race ends with a hilly 37-km individual time trial; it is quite likely the fight for the yellow jersey will ultimately be decided here.