By Bjorn Haake
The 21-year-old Edvald Boasson Hagen (Columbia-Highroad) gets no pressure from his squad, but his good results have him already earned a spot on the Giro d'Italia roster. General Manager Bob Stapleton talked about the diamond in the rough after the Norwegian won Gent-Wevelgem last Wednesday.
Boasson Hagen will not do the Ardennes Classics this year. "We wanted to get him into a Grand Tour and we thought the Giro was a pretty special race," Stapleton said. "It's a huge frontloaded schedule." Stapleton emphasised that there is no pressure from the team. "It's the plan for now, unless something changes with his health."
Stapleton pointed out that teammate Tony Martin did the same in 2008. "You saw Tony Martin do really well in the Giro last year. He came second in the last time trial and you'll see him do well in a Grand Tour this year." Martin was 23 when he finished the Giro in 2008.
Boasson Hagen is also scheduled to arrive at the final day in Rome. "The plan is for him to ride through. We want all the young kids to ride a Grand Tour at a high level."
A three-week race could have even come earlier for the Norwegian. "If we would have been in the Vuelta last year he would have raced that, but the Giro suits him quite well. It will get the youngsters growing and survive a race like that in reasonable shape."
Boasson Hagen already showed he has the ability to fight through tough times. "He got sick in the Tour of Flanders, stopped to go to the bathroom and still caught back on."
Part of the toughness comes from still living in the northern part of Europe, according to Stapleton. "He and Lövkvist are tough kids. They train in the winter up there, they ride on their mountain bikes in the snow, it's pretty impressive.
"You see him out here [racing in Belgium], no vest, no leg warmers, no problem."
The team tried to get Boasson Hagen to use Mallorca as a base, where coach Erik Zabel and teammate Vicente Reynes live. "But he does prefer his family and that makes sense, especially for a young kid," said the team manager.
The road ahead for the young prodigy isn't clear yet, and the Giro may provide a better answer for Stapleton. "For now we think he excels at these hard one-day races, but he is still very young so who knows what it could become long term."