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Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky)
Tougher 2011 route suits talented Norwegian
Team Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen began his 2011 season at Tour of Oman on Tuesday and hopes his sprinting, climbing and time trialing abilities make him a favourite for victory.
He immediately showed his form is good by finishing fourth behind Rabobank rider Theo Bos in the hectic sprint at the end of stage one to Al Seeb.
At last year's race, Boasson Hagen won a sprint stage and the final time trial but finished second to Fabian Cancellara after losing more than a minute on stage four.
This year's route includes four possible stages for the sprinters but also includes a steep uphill finish to Jabal al Akhdhar (known as Green Mountain) on Friday and then a rolling 18.5km climb on Saturday. The Team Sky rider admits he might struggle against pure climbers such as Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) on the climb but is hopeful of securing overall victory in the time trial.
"This is the first race of the season and so it'll be interesting to see how my form is. But I'll have the team behind me and I'll try to do my best," he told Cyclingnews in Oman.
"It's a hard race, the mountain finish and the tough time trial will be decisive and so make it an finely balanced race. It's going to be a real fight and it'll be interesting to see where people are at this time of the year."
Boasson Hagen lives in Norway and so in the last few months he has mixed off-bike training with blocks of intense road work at the Team Sky training base in Mallorca.
"I hope my form is pretty good. I've done all the training I wanted to do. It's hard to say before the races and so this will be my first big test," he said.
"During the winter I did some cross country skiing, weight lifting, rollers and also a lot of training camps. It was good to mix in some alternative training off the but I also spent plenty of time at training camps."
Boasson Hagen admits he might struggle to stay with Gesink and Rodriguez on the 10.3 percent climb to Jabal Al Akhdhar but he has the advantage of being a better time trialist and could also pick up some precious time bonuses on the flat stages.
He failed to pick any bonuses on stage one but was up against some of the best sprinters in the world.
"This year I'm up against Cavendish, Bos, Haussler, Boonen and all the other sprinters that are here. There are a lot of them so it's going to be tough," he admitted.
"But they could be vital in deciding who wins overall, so I'll have a go through and hopefully get some seconds. Even just a few could be the difference between first and second overall."