The sixth stage of the Tour of Britain was more a game of poker for Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) than a bicycle race, as he tried to maintain his lead in the overall classification. Boasson Hagen pulled out a straight flush as he managed to extend his lead despite having a numbers disadvantage. His day could only be topped off by coming home with the victory, but you can’t have everything.
"I’m really happy to extend my lead. Sky did a really good job to control the race for the whole group but they also split it into pieces so they did a strong job," said a smiling Boasson Hagen. "I was planning on making a move in the last five kilometres and I wanted to make the gap as much as possible and then I saw Wout [Poels] was on the other side of the road so I went and made a gap. It was good but Trentin was too hard to beat."
Looking at tough the parcours, Boasson Hagen must have known that he would be in for a rough day in the saddle. Instead of waiting for it to come to him, he took it to the race and immediately went after bonus seconds at the first intermediate sprint. He managed to add two seconds to his lead over Wout Poels but the fast pace set by the Dutchman’s Sky teammates had left Boasson Hagen isolated. It was almost as if we’d gone back a season with Boasson Hagen firmly planted to the tail end of the Sky train, keen to keep them in his sights.
"I was feeling pretty strong but I had to try and follow all the moves that they were in and hope for the best. I managed to do it and I’m happy for that," said Boasson Hagen. "I just followed the moves and made sure that Sky weren’t in the break. Stannard was in a move but there were others in better position overall there so they were a threat to Wout as well, so I just had to play that card and trust that they were going to bring them back because I was alone and I couldn’t start chasing myself.
"I didn’t want to help pull it back before the last sprint was done because I could have lost time there. I wanted to wait as long as possible and then I started to work a little bit."
Boasson Hagen has looked like he’s almost back to his best in the past two days but, ever the perfectionist, he is looking for more. "I’m feeling strong but I still haven’t won any stages and in 2009 I won four. It’s still a step up to where I was then but it feels good now and hopefully I will be in the jersey for Sunday with some hard stages to go."
There are two more stages remaining of the Tour of Britain with Saturday’s stage from Fakenham to Ipswitch the longest of the race. The final stage is a circuit race around the centre of London.