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News feature, January 18, 2005

Tracking Thor down under

By Les Clarke in Adelaide

Chasing Thor in Oz
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
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With a large contingent of foreign teams at this year's Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under, overseas media have followed certain teams for the week of sunshine and soaring temperatures in South Australia. Credit Agricole's Thor Hushovd is one of Norway's best sporting exports, and in the sport of cycling his fame would be on a par with that of mountain biking legend Gunn Rita Dahle.

Most foreign media making the trip to Australia represents print media; the majority of overseas news agencies [in the northern hemisphere] are focussed on the off-season activities of teams or the various cyclocross races taking place ahead of this month's cyclocross world championships. For European cycling fans, a race held in the sweltering heat of Australia's south may be a welcome diversion to the snow of a northern winter.

In the case of Norway, alpine sports take priority, with world champions in a country where the climate fosters excellence in the snow, and children are raised on a diet of sports involving skis or football [soccer]. But in recent times mountain biker Dahle and Credit Agricole's fast man Hushovd have made Norwegians more aware of the sport of cycling and that their countrymen and women excel in it.

In light of this fact it was mildly surprising and a sign of cycling's status in Norway when Cyclingnews ran into Annemarta Giske and Toby Pedersen from TV2 in Norway. Based in Bergen, Giske is in front of the camera while Pedersen is behind it - but both are loving their time in Australia. "We've never travelled this far for a bike race before," said Giske. Pedersen said, "People are very, very friendly to us; we've never before worked in an environment which is so easy for us."

Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole)
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
Click for larger image

As the sun shines and the locals emerge from their festive season holidays, have these two roving journalists had time to mix a bit of holiday fun with work? "So far it's just been work, but we're looking forward to catching the beach," said Pedersen. And work means following Thor in his endeavours. So, is Thor here to work? "He's here to win, and to beat McEwen - I think he'll manage to win one or two stages," said Giske. "This race is not that important for Thor - it's more that the season is starting for him now, and he's such a popular name in the press and the newspapers in Norway now after his success in the Tour de France," said Pedersen.

"It's more to follow his season that we're here than to actually follow the race," he said. "I think it's a good way to start the season rather than just going for a win." Australia obviously attracted Thor, which in turn attracted Giske and Pedersen.

Do they think their TV coverage will attract other Norwegians to Australia? "I absolutely think people in Norway would want to come to Australia after they see it on TV - the way we present it comes from the impression we get ourselves, and I think it's a good promotion for Australia."

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