By Bjorn Haake in Wevelgem
Some of the previous Gent-Wevelgem winners were very young when they took victory, such as Bernard Hinault (22), Teun van Vliet (21) or Eddy Merckx (21). This year, the list has become longer, with Edvald Boasson Hagen, also aged 21, winning the event on Wednesday. Asked about this fact, Boasson Hagen said "the win was quite special. To do it at such a young age is even better." But the Norwegian doesn't like to spend much time looking back. "Sean Kelly? Sorry, I am not so good with cycling history," he admitted. "I just want to race."
He does know Eddy Merckx, however. Boasson Hagen's team members gave him the nickname Eddy (derived from his first name Edvald) and Columbia-Highroad Manager Bob Stapleton revealed that the Norwegian knows where this name comes from. "We told him that's quite an important name to know," Stapleton said with a smile.
Boasson Hagen's own career could go in that direction. Asked if he sees himself more as a Classics rider, or a lead-out man for Cavendish or a sprinter, he had no answer. "I don't think so much about that, I just see where I am doing best. But I like to do these races [Classics]."
Despite winning the Norwegian time trial championships in 2007 and 2008, he doesn't see the race against the clock as his future. "I like time trials OK, but they are really not my preference."
It was his first participation in Gent-Wevelgem and on Sunday he will race Paris-Roubaix also for the first time. "That's really exciting," he said. "I hope I can do a good job for the team. It's a long and tough race, I hope I can finish it." He added that he was not afraid of racing in the Hell of the North, even though it will be a new experience for him. "I haven't even done it in the U23 category." The big unknown lies ahead. "I don't know the cobble sections. We will do them tomorrow, I think."
Boasson Hagen continues to live in Norway, as he has strong ties to his family. The team has talked to him about moving to central Europe, but for now he stays in Norway and it prepares him well for the weather. "I am used to the cold." The advantage for him is that he can dress lighter than most of his rivals without being cold.
Boasson Hagen is often called one of the biggest talents of the new generation. The northerner stayed cool once again. "They can say what they want, I just try to race as best as I can."
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