While Edvald Boasson Hagen was making his way to the anti-doping truck after winning stage 2 of the Tour of Oman, his Dimension Data teammates were already exchanging war stories as they gathered outside the buses that are doubling as collective changing rooms for teams on this race.
A soigneur playfully chided Nathan Haas as he wiped his legs down – “We never saw you at the front in the end, eh” – and the Australian responded with mock outrage: “You try sitting for five minutes at 500 Watts.”
The Dimension Data team were prominent at the head of the peloton as the intensity clicked inexorably upwards on the approach to the final climb, a 2.8-kilometre haul through the striking rock face that hangs above the coastal town of Quriyat. Their belief in Boasson Hagen’s chances at the top, Haas told Cyclingnews, was total.
“From the morning we knew Eddy was going to win, we really did. We were so upset yesterday even though we got 2nd and 4th and 8th and 16th and whatever, because we’re only here for wins,” Haas said. “We knew on a stage like today there were a couple of us who could win it, but nobody stronger than Eddy, so mixing us all together, if we worked together as a team, of course we were going to win.”
As simple and as complicated as that. The pace laid down by Dimension Data – with Haas very much to the fore – and, at times, CCC-Sprandi, made attacking off the front a nigh-on impossibility, and instead the selection came from the back, with rider upon rider sitting up, yielding to the pace, the gradient and the cursed combination of the two.
Boasson Hagen, however, held tough, and in the final 200 metres before the brow of the hill, he unfurled a searing sprint of the kind not seen with regularity since his first two years at Team Sky. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), second and third respectively, were in the picture, but as a background feature, like the shimmering Gulf of Oman off in the distance below.
“It was really good and nice to win here. I was not sure about this final, it was a really tough one on paper,” said Boasson Hagen, who had placed fourth on Tuesday’s opening stage. Famously a man of few, but polite, words, the Norwegian was a little more loquacious than normal in his description of his team’s efforts in the finale.
“Yesterday I felt strong and missed out, but I wanted to give it a go today. I knew I was just on the limit on this climb, but I managed to stay up there and the team did really well to keep me in front. They were pulling the whole climb and there were no attacks, so that was perfect for me, because I didn’t use the sprint before I needed to.”
“He’s quietly confident,” Haas said of the softly-spoken Boasson Hagen. “Whenever he says anything, it’s very considered and very intelligent, well thought through and with purpose.”
The triumph was Boasson Hagen’s second of the 2016 campaign after his win in the time trial at last week’s Tour of Qatar, where a most untimely double puncture the following day cost him what had appeared a copper-fastened overall victory.
“It’s a different race but it’s good that I could have some luck again in some races and have a victory,” Boasson Hagen said before descending to the podium ceremony in the valley below, where he also received the red jersey of race leader.
Boasson Hagen is four seconds clear of Nibali and six ahead of Van Avermaet and Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale), but despite his sparkling early season form, he downplayed his prospects of taking final overall honours in Oman.
“I think Green Mountain is too hard,” he said. “It’s even longer now than before when it was already hard enough. I just want to keep the jersey as long as possible, so we’ll see.”