By Gerard Knapp in Palo Alto, California
One of the most far-sighted signings by High Road manager Bob Stapleton in 2007 was that of the emerging super-talent, 20 year-old Norwegian Time Trial Champion Edvald Boasson Hagen. It's perhaps unfair to use the 'Viking warrior' stereotype, given his shy and polite demeanour off the bike. But on the bike, he is a demon and yesterday he showed a glimpse of much more to come with an impressive fifth place in the opening prologue of the Tour of California.
Boasson Hagen is one of several national TT champions in High Road, and he could be seen in the prologue wearing the distinctive national strip of Norway. Last year, the young rider had a stellar season, racking up so many professional race wins he ended up second only to Alessandro Petacchi.
Hailing from the Lillehammer region of Norway, Boasson Hagen showed promise as a cross-country skier before concentrating on cycling when 15 years old, and from that point on, he's continued to impress coaches and team managers. (Read Cruising Norwegian style.) He already taken out stage wins against some very fast company and is seen as the country's most promising talent since Tour de France green jersey winner, Thor Hushovd.
"It's his first year and first race in a major ProTour team," explained High Road's Kristy Scrymgeour. "The fact that he's in this team shows how much we think of him. It's pretty much the A team here for this race."
After so much upheaval and instability over the past few months, it's clear the High Road team is ready to race, as it ended the day with three riders in the top 10, and this follows a highly successful start to the season with its German powerhouse, André Greipel, taking out the Tour Down Under, the first ProTour event of the season.