Julian Dean Diary

News & Results

08/2/2006| 0 comments
by Julian Dean
Thor Hushovd wins on Champs-Elysées. Photo copyright Ben Ross/Roadcycling.com/<A HREF="http://www.benrossphotography.com" TARGET=_BLANK>www.benrossphotography.com</A>.
Thor Hushovd wins on Champs-Elysées. Photo copyright Ben Ross/Roadcycling.com/www.benrossphotography.com.

Julian Dean Diary

2006 Tour de France - Victory in Paris.

2006 Tour de France - Victory in Paris

For me personally, Thor's victory couldn't have come at a better time. After feeling the pressure of a failed first week in the sprints at the Tour, to come up good for the King sprint stage of the Tour de France was just perfect.

I started the day with a particularly good feeling. Something inside of me knew that it was going to be a great day for us. Maybe it was the fact that I was going to be seeing Carole & Tanner for the first time in almost a month or just that I was about to finish the Tour de France again - I dunno - probably a combination. But for whatever reason, I knew that the last stage was going to be special. Victory or no victory. I had rolled through the previous day's Time Trial easily, feeling really comfortable on the bike with good sensations in the legs. Both of which were positive signs for the coming day.

As is customary with the final stage of the TDF, we rolled out easy, letting the race start proper once we got to the Champs Elysees. Although it was nice just to cruise along for the first 90 km, I wanted it to be a little faster so we could get to the finish and I could see Tanner and Carole. At the same time however, I didn't want to be subject to more unnecessary suffering so I took the time to enjoy the spectators and ambience as we weaved our way through the streets of Paris toward the Eiffel Tower; knowing that soon enough I would be with my family and I just had one more job to do.


In honour of one of the great legends of the sport before and during my era, we let Ekimov be the first rider on to the centre stage - the Champs Elysees. It was possibly his last Tour and for a rider of his greatness, it seemed the least we could do. For me, I felt honoured to be able to share this with a friend and hero of mine. Although he didn't win the most races or the biggest races all of the time, he is still held in such high regard and that?s an inspiration. I think it's more because of the kind of character he is than anything else? He?s been a selfless, loyal, consistent, hard bastard and no-frills bike rider who has been endlessly dependable? A true champion. The peloton will certainly miss him?and his stories.

The laps up and down the Champs Elysees on the last day of the Tour de France are never as easy as they look on tv. The cobbled road and the false flat uphill toward the Arc de Triomphe make for very hard riding. You actually end up suffering a lot as you battle the whole 8 laps for position. Certainly if the Champs Elysees was a nice hot mix surface, it would be a lot more comfortable. Although this would ruin the whole ambience and I think that the Champs just wouldn't have the same amount of awe about them. So we just have to be happy with the way they are. Although a hot mix surface is still worth wondering about though, especially when your motoring up there at 60km/hr suffering away as the cobbles steal all of your momentum from you. If you are daring and want the ultimate smooth ride, you can go to the far right and ride in the 2 inch concrete gutter but that takes precision and although I do it on occasion, mostly I tend to stick to the road as rough as it is, especially at 60km/hr.


Coming into the final lap, me and Thor were both pretty well placed. I was feeling good and hadn't really been suffering too much the whole time as I was able to maintain a good position. The last lap was full of attacks as others tried to steal the victory by a sneaky breakaway. Heading through the tunnel for the last time, we sat cool and comfortable - Sebastian Hinault, me then Thor, 15 or so places from the front. Out of the tunnel and through the left turn, a gap appeared between us and the 10 or so riders ahead of us. Hinault closed the gap as we passed the
Flamme Rouge (final 1km). From there, I started my effort. Everything from that point on seemed so natural, smooth, confident and right - it all just fell into place. I weaved my way through the riders in front of us as I took Thor to the front. Never hesitating or accelerating too hard, just moving smoothly, quietly and comfortably. I could feel that for the first time in this Tour de France, we had got it right.

Into the last corner with 350m to go and I was in front. I knew that I had enough to give about 150m more and in a sprint like the one up the Champs, for a rider like Thor, that would be perfect.

Unfortunately through the last corner, Steegmans, the lead-out rider for McEwen, came underneath me and closed me off into the barriers as my back wheel and his skipped outward on the cobbles through the turn. I had to slam on the anchors and lost my momentum and didn't have the energy to get back to help Thor. From that point on, he was on his own and I just had to hope that I had got him to a good place and he was feeling like he had the power to take the sprint. As that?s what the sprint on the Champs is all about - raw power. As the contenders powered away from me in the last 300m, I could see nothing but a scramble of riders going left and right, weaving from one side of the road to the other. Then I heard it from the commentary "THOR HUSHOVD!!!!!" Like a stone lifting off my shoulders, the relief that I felt was immense. We had done it. We had won the most important stage for sprinters in the Tour de France.


I had been feeling a lot of pressure from the team in the previous weeks about my performances, my problems and generally the bad run that I?ve had in the last 18 months. To win this stage and Thor to be so happy with the way that I ushered him through the last 2 km was a great relief that lifted some of the burden I've been feeling. Talking with him after the race, I told him that I was a little disappointed as I felt I still had a little more to give on the last straight and wanted to take him to the 200m mark but as it was, he said it was perfect. He felt he had had such an easy ride in the last 2km that out of the last corner he was able to roll smoothly on to the wheel of Robbie and wait till he felt like he wanted to go. It was a fairy tale ending for us, as well as a fairy tale beginning.

After the finish, I was straight back to the team bus to see my family. I was incredibly excited, fizzing from the victory and now to see my little fella. Unfortunately, he wasn't as excited as the million or so spectators who were buzzing around the bus as he lay fast asleep in his buggy. I wanted to pull him out and wake him up to let him know that I was there but at the same time there was something phenomenal about watching him sleep so soundly right in the middle of a heaving mass of cheering people. I guess that there are just some things more important in life. So I let him sleep and half hour later I got to have my moment with him and Carole.




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