Thor Hushovd - 'This is very big for Norwegian cycling'
When the 2017 UCI Road World Championships begin on Sunday in Bergen, Norway, Thor Hushovd will be there in his role as ambassador for the sport. Hushovd is Norway's most accomplished male road cyclist, with an Elite road world title (2010), Under-23 time trial title (1998), plus ten stage wins and two points jerseys at the Tour de France.
The UCI Worlds are returning to Norway for the first time since 1993, when they were held in Oslo, and Hushovd feels there will be a huge response from the public.
"This is very big for Norwegian cycling. Since 1993, a lot has happened to cycling in Norway. Today it is a much bigger sport, it is growing and there are more people with (racing) licences. People used to only know the World Championships and the Olympics, now it is part of the summer for Norwegians, with the Tour de France and other races. Now, Norwegians know much more about bike racing and the sport. So when the UCI World Championships come back to Norway this year it will be different and a big experience for the Norwegian public and Norwegian cycling.
"I think what will make a difference is the Norwegian involvement with sports and the outdoors. We like to do sport outside and we are proud of our athletes and what they have accomplished, so I think our public are going to really show up and make for a nice atmosphere. Also, it is in the middle of the city and I think it will be a celebration with a lot of people coming out."
Hushovd also points to the unique courses and terrain that the organisers have devised, particularly the Men Elite time trial up Mount Fløyen for a mountaintop finish, and the start of the men's road race outside the city.
"I think it is the first time in history for a time trial like this, I have heard. I've seen most of the course and it is not easy even going into the last climb. I've done it once on a bike - the first bit is very technical, on cobblestones with sharp hairpin corners, and then it's steep all the way up. The last bit is very steep, at 10 or 12 percent. I'm quite sure the top five will not be same as a usual type of time trial and we will see a lot of changes. It's very good news that (Tour de France champion, Chris) Froome will race it, and if he wants to win, (the world title) this year is the year he can do it.
"The road race starts out in Rong; it's kind of an island community outside of Bergen that is very beautiful. I hope the riders are going to have a sunny day, because you ride from island to island that are connected by small bridges out in the ocean. I know that the local people out there are really excited that the Worlds are going to start out there and they are doing a lot of stuff to show that they welcome the Worlds to Norway."
Hushovd expects that Norwegian athletes will be anxious to put on a good showing at home: "I know that they will be proud to represent Norway. It's a dream for every rider to represent their country at home. This year we have a strong Junior team for the men and also Under-23. We could win the Elite men's road race with Edvald Boasson Hagen or Alexander Kristoff, and we have a strong team for the ladies, so I'm sure we will be in a lot of fights for the medals. That's very nice for the public when your own people fight for the medals."