As cycling deals with yet more drugs scandals and the UCI appears to be heading back to the dark ages, I thought it a good time to celebrate Thor Hushovd, who brightened up my cycling day a great deal with his World Championship win. So here goes, ten things you may not have known about the new wearer of the rainbow jersey:
1. He may be the king of cycling now, but he was once known as the king of potatoes to his friends, courtesy of spending every weekend of his youth selling baked potatoes to hung-over party-goers. He and his friend would bake the tatters in his parents basement, trek in to the nearest drinking hotspot and peddle his wares till 3 in the morning. Don’t laugh – he used the profits to buy a Porsche…
2. That Porsche was spotted during a training ride in Italy. Thor climbed off his bike, paid for the car and cycled on. As you do.
3. He’s a year ahead of schedule. Well, at least according to Norwegian pundits, who had high hopes for Copenhagen ’11, but next to none for this year. They are suitably impressed, however, and rank his win as one of the top ten Norwegian sport achievements of all time.
4. He’s known as the ‘God of Thunder’ abroad, but Norwegians found that a bit naff and call him the ‘Ox from Grimstad’, or even the ‘Animal from Grimstad’, instead. As the Norwegian saying goes, ‘beloved child has many names’… (Grimstad is anything but grim, by the way, being a pretty and idyllic coastal town in southern Norway.)
5. His wife celebrated his win from their home in Monaco with the delectable combination of champagne, bacon, eggs – and pancakes. That is also what she intends to serve him when he returns home to his wife and baby daughter.
6. Meanwhile, Thor himself celebrated with kangaroo steak, after which he declared he would be ‘hopping happy’. Good thing he’s good on a bike, since the stand-up career is looking unlikely.
7. Whilst on the subject of food, Thor is partial to mum’s meatballs, to the point where mum and dad Hushovd have followed the Tour de France in their camper van in order to cook for him. Norwegian favourites were on the menu, but Thor’s mum has parked the van in Norway now, and he has to make do with the team chef instead.
8. Thor is popular in the peloton, and is the reason both Lance Armstrong and Andy Schleck have made appearances in the Oslo Grand Prix charity race. He might have regretted that when Schleck proceeded to finish above him this year, but at least he did beat Armstrong the year before.
9. Lance Armstrong is incidentally also an occasional training partner, since Thor lives in Monaco and both are frequently seen climbing hills in and around the south of France.
10. He’s Norwegian. Ok, so maybe you did know that, but apparently it’s the source of his success. As one of 0ur ex-prime ministers claimed, in a perfectly dead-pan way, ’it’s typical Norwegian to be best’. Hmmm.