Thor Hushovd gets stitches and an apology, Di Luca bows out and T-Mobile renew their commitment to t
PIC BY TIM DE WAELE – Thor Hushovd took his place among the starters in Obernai this morning after telling reporters that he hasn’t given up hope of reclaiming the yellow jersey, despite the arm injury he sustained on the Strasbourg finishing straight on Sunday. Hushovd emerged from the Credit Agricole team bus this morning wearing a broad smile and a large right bandage just beneath his right shoulder. The five centimetre incision made by a giant PMU hand 150 metres from the finish-line was sealed last night with three stitches. Hushovd told journalists this morning that a large bruise is still likely to restrict the movement of his right arm, but that he hopes to regain full mobility in the coming days. Shortly after his team’s arrival in Obernai, Hushovd had been visited by Jean-Marie Leblanc and a representative from PMU. Leblanc apologized for yesterday’s incident and confirmed that the offending green hands will no longer be distributed near the final two kilometres of stages. Following Tom Boonen’s claim that he was struck by a mobile phone in sight of the finish yesterday, Leblanc told Hushovd that the Tour will now appeal to spectators not to lean over the barriers to take pictures with their mobiles. Hushovd told procycling that PMU had offered an apology and a small token of goodwill. “They gave me a watch. No bouquet of flowers….that’s for when I win the stage,” the Norwegian grinned. Hushovd himself may be asking forgiveness of the riders he showered with blood – albeit inadvertently – in the aftermath of “hand-gate”. “I don’t know what happened,” said a blood-spattered Oscar Friere as he crossed the line in tenth position. “I was on Hushovd’s wheel when suddenly blood squirted across my face. I lost all concentration, I didn’t know where it had come from and I obviously couldn’t think about sprinting. I found out that it was Hushovd’s blood after I crossed the line.” – Having disappointed in the Giro, Danilo di Luca has drawn his second grand-tour blank of the season, pulling out of the Tour after just one stage. The reigning ProTour champion opted to return home this morning after failing to shake off the ill-effects of a urinary infection. Liquigas team directeur Stefano Zanatta told procycling this morning that Di Luca had feared that, by continuing, he might jeopardize the second half of the season and particularly his chances of a gold medal at the Salzburg world championships in September. Zanatta said that Stefano Garzelli may now target the polka-dot jersey – Di Luca’s objective at the start of the Tour. “He could do it, but we won’t be asking Stefano to go for mountains points today or tomorrow, because he could win either of these stages. He’d be better off saving his energy for that,” Zanatta said. “In theory, Stefano is also our man for the general classification. He’s in good form, but we wait until after the first time trial to decide whether or not he’ll aim for a high finish overall.” Zanatta added that Di Luca may now ride the Vuelta a Espana in preparation for the Worlds. – Fears that Jan Ullrich’s suspension from T-Mobile could lead to the team’s main backer bowing out at the end of the season appear to have been unfounded. A team spokesman yesterday revealed that the company has committed to sponsoring the team until the end of 2008. In recent days, the team’s managers and medical staff have spoken publicly of the need to introduce tougher internal doping controls, not least to protect the T-Mobile brand’s image. Team doctor Lothar Heinrich told procycling on Sunday that a newly developed method to screen for analogous blood transfusions may even be adopted next year.