Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) might have been beaten on stage 2 of the Critérium du Dauphiné, but he took heart simply from being in the battle. It's been a trying season for the Norwegian so far – and even more so for his team – but he feels things are coming good at the right time ahead of the Tour de France.
The two opening road stages of the Dauphiné were always likely to appeal to Boasson Hagen, both featuring undulating terrain that would complicate matters for the pure sprinters, of which there are few present at the race. Moreover, both stages featured uphill drags to the line.
After surviving the late climb on Monday, only to lose position and finish 37th, Boasson Hagen once again safely negotiated Tuesday's final climb, which, despite coming some 30km from the line, ruled the likes of Bryan Coquard, Fabio Jakobsen, and Phil Bauhaus out of the equation.
He latched onto the Mitchelton-Scott teammates of Daryl Impey and opened his sprint after an early effort from Oliver Naesen, only to see Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) storm past with 50 metres to go.
"I was in a good position on the climb and made it over with the first group, and then I could also keep a good position all the way down the climb, heading to the sprint," Boasson Hagen said in Belleville.
"I was in a good position for the sprint, but it seemed the pace dropped in front of me just at the wrong moment, so that allowed the guys behind to keep a bit more speed while we had to try to accelerate again. I did all I could in the sprint, but Ackermann finished faster."
As the line neared, Boasson Hagen might have been thinking about scoring a precious victory for his team in the context of what has been a miserable season. They have been blighted by injuries and illness, with talisman Mark Cavendish suffering repeated setbacks, and riders forced to alter their programmes and plug gaps just to fill rosters.
As a result, they've only won three races all season, one coming from Boasson Hagen at the Tour of Norway, one from Cavendish at the Dubai Tour, and one from Ben O'Connor at the Tour of the Alps.
"It is what it is," Boasson Hagen told Cyclingnews. "We just have to keep fighting the guys still racing and hope the other guys are coming back stronger. You can't really do anything about it. You just have to do your best."
Boasson Hagen himself was one of the riders on the sickbed towards the start of the season. He had a lung infection over the winter and then had surgery to remove his gallbladder. He started his season in mid-February but was unable to find his stride by the spring where, despite making the crucial selection at Dwars door Vlaanderen to finish fourth, he posted a relatively disappointing string of results.
In the last couple of weeks, however, he has shown signs that things are starting to move in the right direction ahead of the Tour de France. Before coming to the Dauphiné, he completed two races in his home country, winning a stage at the Tour of Norway and then finishing in the top five in all three stages of the Tour des Fjords.
"I always want to win. I always want to do my best. You just have to always keep fighting for good results. I didn't win today but it's at least nice to be close, and just to be up there fighting for it," he said.
"I feel good. I feel I'm getting there now. We have some mountain stages coming up but I will try and finish the race and I expect my shape will only improve ahead of the Tour. Hopefully, I can do some good results at the Tour."
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