Thor Hushovd rode back in to the Tour de France's green jersey today on stage 16, climbing the brutal Col du Tourmalet alongside Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck to steal six points on the finish line.
Cervelo rider Hushovd won the sprint for 10th place at the front of a select group of 49 riders, six minutes and 45 seconds behind the stage winner Pierrick Fedrigo. That group contained all the race favourites (apart from Cadel Evans who finished 23 minutes down and Ivan Basso who finished 34 minutes down), while the autobus finished 34 minutes and 48 seconds behind the winner.
Should Hushovd win green in Paris he will have done so in an 'all-rounder' style rather than doing so by being the fastest sprinter in the race. Hushovd won stage three to Arenberg from a small group but since then has failed to make much of an impact in the bunch sprints.
He has, however, ridden consistently at the front of the race, getting top tens in the sprints and putting himself in breaks to grab the intermediate points. Today he made his most audacious move yet by attacking the race leaders on the slopes of the Tourmalet, "we weren't going very fast, so I thought I'd give it a go," he said after the stage.
The Norwegian is now on 191 points in the green jersey competition, leading Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) by just four points. Mark Cavendish is in third spot, but 29 points behind Hushovd.
After the stage Hushovd stated that Petacchi was his main rival, and seemed to dismiss Cavendish's challenge. "It was an important day. I knew it was a good chance to try to get some more points," Hushovd said.
"The team did a great job helping me get over the climbs. With the break up the road, we knew there were some points waiting at the finish line. It's important to take [points] whenever you have the opportunity. Petacchi is the most dangerous rival. I am feeling better as this Tour goes along."
On paper Cavendish could still win green, but there are only two sprint stages left for him to overhaul Hushovd's lead. If the Manxman were to win in both Bordeaux and Paris, he would pick up 70 points, meaning Hushovd would only have to score 42 points to hold him off. Plus there are two intermediate sprints on stage 18 to Bordeaux and another two on the final stage in to Paris.
Petacchi is a far greater threat, he only needs to twice finish in the top three with Hushovd behind him to win green. A win that may not go down too well now the Italian has been named by Gazzetta dello Sport as being involved in a new doping investigation.
Despite knowing he's not the fastest man in the peloton, Hushovd hasn't given up on winning another stage; "I think I have a good chance to win another stage. I would love to win on the Champs-Elysées. The green jersey always comes down to who is the strongest rider over three weeks."
Tour de France 2010: Latest news
Armstrong has his last go in the Tour
Tour's points leader Petacchi investigated for doping
Contador issues video apology to Schleck
Millar searches horizon for Eiffel Tower
Schleck-Contador friendship turns sour after chain problem
Wiggins at 2010 Tour: "I haven't got it"
Basso wins Tour's acceptance; podium spot next goal
Contador versus Schleck: A game of seconds
Can Cav win without Renshaw?
Hesjedal pushing his way to the Tour's top
Renshaw disqualification overshadows Cavendish's win
Charly Wegelius pulls out of Tour
Did Armstrong own a stake in Tailwind Sports, or not?
Cavendish in a 'must win' situation for Tour's green jersey
Millar rides through pain barrier to make time cut
Roche alongside Tour's top men ahead of Pyrenees
Wiggins to aim for Tour de France stage win?
Dan Lloyd battles on in Tour despite groin strain
Tour de France 2010: Stage reports
Stage 16: Fedrigo takes tough Pyrenean stage
Stage 15: Victorious Voeckler continues fine Franch Tour as Contador takes yellow jersey
Stage 14: Riblon hangs on in Pyrenees to give France fourth stage win
Stage 13: Vino returns to top of Tour after doping ban
Stage 12: Rodriguez wins as Contador attacks
Stage 11: Cavendish bags third stage win but lead out man kicked out of Tour
Stage 10: Cavendish bags third stage win but his lead-out man is kicked out of race
Stage 10: Paulinho claims narrow stage victory on Bastille day
Stage nine: Casar wins stage as Schleck and Contador go head-to-head
Stage seven: Chavanel wins stage and takes overall as Thomas drops out of Tour's white
Stage six: Cavendish makes it two as Tour hots up
Stage five: Cavendish wins his first stage of Tour
Stage four: Petacchi wins into Reims
Stage three: Hushovd takes dramatic win; Thomas second on stage and GC
Stage three live coverage: As it happened
Stage two: Comeback man Chavanel takes victory in Spa
Stage one: Petacchi wins in Brussels as bunch left in tatters
Prologue: Cancellara pips Martin to win
Tour de France 2010: Photos
Stage 15 photo gallery
Stage 14 photo gallery
Stage 13 photo gallery
Stage 12 photo gallery
Stage 11 photo gallery
Stage 10 photo gallery
Stage nine photo gallery
Stage eight photo gallery
Tour 2010 wallpaper
Stage seven photo gallery
Stage six photo gallery
Stage five photo gallery
Stage four photo gallery
Stage three photo gallery
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one gallery
Prologue photo gallery
Tour de France 2010: Videos
Stage 16 video highlights
Stage 15 video highlights
Stage 14 video highlights
Stage 13 video highlights
Stage 12 video highlights
Stage 11 video highlights
Stage 10 video highlights
Stage nine video highlights
Stage eight video highlights
Stage seven video highlights
Stage six video highlights
Stage five video highlights
Stage four video highlights
Stage three video highlights
Stage two video highlights
Stage one video highlights
Prologue video highlights
Tour de France 2010: Race guide
Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
Official start list, with race numbers
Brits at the Tour 2010
Tout team guide
Tour jerseys: What they are and what they mean
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Wiggins
Tour de France 2010: Pictures
Tour team presentation, Rotterdam
Tour teams take to the cobbles: Photo special
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