Although Edvald Boasson Hagen might have insisted that his legs were merely “OK but not super” after he took the race lead on the Tour of Britain’s stage 5 summit finish on Hartside, the Norwegian looked close to his very competitive best.
Having chased down repeated attacks on the wind-blown final ascent, the MTN-Qhubeka rider launched a powerful counter of his own in the final kilometre, only to yield on the very last ramps into the teeth of a blustery wind when he seemed to have the stage won. That victory went instead to Sky’s Wout Poels, but the Dutchman just missed out on a double success as Boasson Hagen moved into the lead by a single second.
With former race leader Juan José Lobato dropped as soon as the final 8km ascent began and the rest of the pack now 30 seconds and more back, the battle for overall victory looks a two-man contest, with sprint bonuses likely to play a crucial role over the final three stages. That should favour a sprinter/puncheur like Boasson Hagen over a climber like Poels.
“The wind was really hard at the end. I got a nice gap with the tailwind and wanted to get as many seconds clear as possible, but Wout was too strong,” Boasson Hagen said at the finish.
“After he passed me I just went as hard as I could. I don’t know whether the one-second lead is a good or a bad thing. It might be better for our team if he had the jersey and we didn’t have to defend it.”
Looking slightly disappointed despite his new yellow jersey, Boasson Hagen confessed, “I would have felt better if I’d crossed the line first, to have got the victory. I’ve got the jersey, but I haven’t won it yet. I need to fight for it. It’s going to be really tight all the way to the finish.”
As a former Sky man, the Norwegian knows full well that he and his team have a stern task ahead. “Sky have been taking responsibility and they really want to win. We’ll have to be very aware of what they can do. We’ll need to ride smart,” he said.
As his form builds towards the World Championships in two weeks’ time, the MTN leader admitted, “My legs feel OK. They’re not super, but let’s hope they’re good enough.”