Tour de France - Heroic Hushovd takes stage 13
World champion Thor Hushovd won stage 13 of the Tour de France from Pau to Lourdes after a miraculous descent down the Col d'Aubisque.
Norwegian Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) finished the 162.5km stage 10 seconds ahead of France's David Moncoutie (Cofidis) after the pair chased down solo escapee Jeremy Roy (FDJ) on the long descent from the legendary Pyreneen peak.
Sprint specialist Hushovd - who becomes the first world champion to win a stage of the Tour since Spain's Oscar Freire in 2002 - said attacking on the HC climb of the Aubisque was the "craziest" thing he had ever done after his superior descending skills saw him cancel out a two-minute deficit to Roy on the final 40km.
"This is the best moment of my career," the 33-year-old Hushovd said after securing his 10th Tour stage win. "Winning alone after a hard climb like the Col d'Aubisque is incredible. It's the craziest thing I have ever done. I took it easy in the mountains yesterday and saved my legs, which is why I won today."
Hushovd was part of a ten-man breakaway which managed to jump the peloton after a nervous 70 opening kilometres of racing in the valleys of the Pyrenees. Amongst the escapees were Hushovd's compatriot Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky), the stage six winner, Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre), and French trio Jerome Pineau (Quick Step), Roy and Moncoutie.
Roy attacked at the start of the Col d'Aubisque, provoking a reaction from Hushovd - who wore the leader's yellow jersey for seven days earlier in the race following GArmin's win in the team time trial at Les Essarts. Moncoutie then made his move, catching and passing the world champion but not managing to eat into the lead of his compatriot further up the road.
Present in three breakaways already in this year's race, Roy crossed the summit 53 seconds ahead of Moncoutie and 2:03 ahead of Hushovd, whose expert descending skills saw him soon catch the Cofidis veteran on the long descent to the valley below.
Passing under the 20km-to-go banner, Roy held a 1:05 advantage over the chasing duo who combined well to cut the gap to just 15 seconds on the outskirts of Lourdes. With just 3km to spare, Hushovd made his move, dropping Moncoutie in an instant before catching a disconsolate Roy and riding on to glory.
Small consolation for Roy and his ever-attacking FDJ team will be the polka dot jersey, after the Frenchman took enough points on the road to move ahead of stage 12 winner Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel).
Remnants of the initial breakaway group started rolling home just under five minutes down before Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) crossed the line to take ninth place - and some vital green jersey points - after breaking clear on the descent.
Spain's Jose Rojas (Movistar) led the peloton over the line 7:37 down on Hushovd, with Europcar's Thomas Voeckler safely retaining his yellow jersey ahead of Saturday's mountainous showdown to Plateau de Beille.
With the race favourites content to see out Friday's stage inside the peloton, the 168.5km stage from Saint-Gaudens to Plateau de Beille includes six climbs and finishes on an HC ascent which historically proves pivotal in the outcome of the race.
The four previous finishes atop the Plateau de Beille have all been won by riders who went on to top the podium in Paris - Marco Pantani (1998), Lance Armstrong (2002 and 2004) and Alberto Contador (2007).