Aussies to fight Hushovd for green jersey

Updated: July 14, 2005, 1:52 PM ET
Reuters

By Stephen Farrand

DIGNE-LES-BAINS, France, July 14 - Thor Hushovd is the Tour de France's new points leader after Belgium's Tom Boonen retired with an injured knee.

Norwegian Hushovd, however, will have to contest every sprint if he wants to wear the points leader's green jersey at the end of the race.

The Credit Agricole sprinter has a total of 142 points after finishing ninth on Thursday's 12th stage to Digne-Les-Bains. Australians Stuart O'Grady and Robbie McEwen are close on his heels with 120 and 107 points respectively.

"I've got the green jersey and I'm going to do everything I can to keep it all the way to Paris but it's going to be very hard because Stuart O'Grady is riding very well and McEwen is very fast in the sprints," Hushovd told reporters.

"I'm sorry for Boonen that he had to retire. He's been very unlucky with three crashes but that's racing and that's the Tour de France."

O'Grady, who finished 10th on Thursday, was happy his Cofidis team mate David Moncoutie won stage 12 and said he would continue to ride an aggressive race.

"It worked perfect for us," said the Australian. "Mission accomplished.

BE AGGRESSIVE

"The objective was to win the stage...Hushovd is going to be hard to beat but I'm going to take it day by day.

"The Tour de France is a three-week adventure, anything can happen and you've got to go out there and be aggressive and try and make things happen like Cofidis did today.

"My first objective is to win a stage and then if I'm in the points leader's green jersey on the Champs Elysees, it'll be the cherry on the cake."

McEwen lost a few points to Hushovd and O'Grady on Thursday and is determined to win a third green jersey after success in 2001 and 2003.

"I'm still in with a chance and I don't want to let those guys get a free run and take heaps of points every day and increase their lead," he said.

"On the hard days I want to try and hold the points difference. Maybe on the other days something will happen and I'll come right back into contention but unfortunately it's not always the fastest sprinter that wins the green jersey."

McEwen will try and pull back points on Friday's flat 173.5-km 13th leg from Miramas to Montpellier. He is not expecting the stage to end in a bunch sprint finish.

"I don't think we'll see another bunch sprint finish until Paris," he said. "It might be a flat stage but it's going to be hot and windy and, let's face it, we're two weeks into the Tour and there are almost dead bodies on bikes out there.

"When the teams are fresh you can use your team to chase down the attacks but now it's almost impossible to pull them back. Unfortunately that doesn't help me but I'll keep on fighting for points."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index