Edvald Boasson Hagen is fast becoming the most watched under 23 riders in the peloton. Just two years into his career he has 19 wins, a contract with T-Mobile, and is a hot favourite for the U23 World title in Stuttgart. Cyclingnews' Paul Verkuylen caught up with the Norwegian native from Rudsbygd in the Lillehammer Fylker a few days before he was due to travel to the inaugural Tour of Ireland.
Edvald Boasson Hagen stormed onto the scene in 2006 at 19 years of age, and during his first season in the under 23 ranks he racked up eight wins including three stages of the Tour de L'Avenir. This year, the Norwegian champion topped that performance, scoring a dominating win in Paris-Corrèze, which saw him take both stages and the overall, as well as overall wins in the Ringerike GP and Istrian Spring Trophy and stages in the Tour de Normandie and Tour de Bretagne.
Boasson Hagen's performances have not only gained the eyes of the T-Mobile team, which he will join for the 2008 season, but also the attention of his countrymen in Norway.
If you were to ask any Norwegian in the street 10 years ago who their most famous sports person was, 9 out of 10 would have said eight time Olympic gold medallist in cross country skier, Bjørn Dæhlie. Although that name is quite possibly still the best known sports person in the country today, cycling has fast become one of the main summer sports in the country, thanks to the success of riders such as Thor Hushovd and Kurt Asle Arverson.
During the month of July, most Norwegians are out celebrating the summer months drinking ute øl (beers outside) and eating prawns after a long and cold winter, but these days, many of the 4.6 million inhabitants of the Northern European country are also glued to their TV screens willing their favourite rider to a stage win or two of the Tour.
Thanks in part to the attention brought to the sport by the Tour successes of Hushovd, a new crop of youngsters began cycling, and one new talent stood out from the pack. Edvald Boasson Hagen hails from Rudsbygd, a small town 200km from the nation's capital, Oslo, in the Lillehammer region. It's an area better known for hosting the winter Olympics in 1994, where the aforementioned Dæhlie took two gold and two silver medals.