Lykkelig bursdag Thor! Everyone’s favourite Norse God will be hoping that his 35th birthday ushers in a kick-ass season after last year’s was lost to what was finally identified as a virus complicated by muscle inflammation. He’s been training over the winter months, looks to be in fine form – I know because I’ve seen him out and about – and has his eyes firmly fixed on the Classics, in particular one of the races he’s already won at the under-23 level: Paris-Roubaix. He’s confirmed to Norwegian television that:
It is lovely to ride when you know that your body works. It has not been that way for a while, but it is now. I am training more and more, and am on track.
Thor doesn’t come from a cycling family. His father was a ski jumper. No, Thor aped his older brother [where have we read that before – Ed?] and began his racing career aged nine, tearing through the streets of Grimstad, Southern Norway, in hot pursuit of said brother. Thor confirmed:
I do have a brother, three years older than me who started riding when he was 10. My parents drove him to all the races, and we used to treat the races like small holidays on the weekend.
Thor followed in his brother’s footsteps and his parents obliged with their unstinting support.
They were so good; they followed me to every race from 10 to when I was 15 or 16 until I found a bigger team. My Dad was the mechanic, driver and sponsor – he was everything.
Thor also received valuable advice and guidance from a former Norwegian pro and Tour de France stage winner, Dag Otto Lauritzen, who lived a few kilometres down the road.
Thor’s precocious talent spoke for itself: junior national time trial champion at 17, national champion both on the road and time trial one year later, then in his first year as an under-23, aged just 20, Thor stunned everyone by becoming under-23 time trial world champion and World Cup champion, which included victories in the junior Paris-Roubaix and Paris-Tours.
He’s continued in a similar vein since joining Credit Agricole in 2000 and, off the back of a seriously impressive palmares, becoming renowned as a sprinter who can both climb and time trial. He’s the most successful Scandinavian in Grand Tours, winning 13 stages, the green jersey in the Tour de France in 2005 and 2009, plus the points jersey in the Vuelta in 2006. He was the first ever Norwegian to lead the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana in 2006. He also led the Tour in 2008 and 2011. In 2010 he was the first Norwegian to become road race world champion.
The following year, he notched up another first when on stage three, as reigning world champion, he led out Garmin-Cervelo teammate Tyler Farrar for the win while wearing the yellow jersey.
Let’s not forget that Thor has, except for last season, been omnipresent for his country at World Championships and Olympics in his fetching but altogether too revealing national outfit. Oh yes, he was also Norwegian time trial champion in 2004 and 2005 and road race champion in 2004 and 2010.
Finally, you’ve just gotta love a guy who weighs more than and dwarfs most of the peloton, wouldn’t want to share a bathroom with the Schlecks because they’re too skinny and doesn’t take himself too seriously. Remember the team presentation in the 2011 Tour de France?
Enjoy your birthday, Thor and we’ll be hoping that this is the year you land Paris-Roubaix.