By Daniel Benson in Wevelgem
On a day of high winds, crashes and poor weather, Columbia showed their strength in depth with an all-round impressive display in Gent-Wevelgem. Edvald Boasson Hagen took the biggest win of his young career, with Marcus Burghardt finishing 7th and George Hincapie coming home in 16th.
On the finish line Columbia Team Manager Bob Stapleton said Edvald's win was one of the proudest moments in the team's short history but praised the team for their hard work and application. Earlier in the race Mark Cavendish's chances disappeared up the road after a poorly timed puncture and cross winds breaking the field.
"I would say that's Edvald's biggest win and I'm so proud that another of our young riders has come through and risen through the ranks. We've had confidence in him all throughout his time with us but I don't think even he knows just how strong he is now or can become in the future," Stapleton said.
Teammate and former winner of Gent-Wevelgem, Marcus Burghardt, who had looked strong on the Kemmelberg and marked the moves to protect Hagen's lead, echoed those sentiments. "That was great work from us. Cervélo and Rabobank had more riders in the lead group to start with but we rode a great race and I'm so happy for Edvald. I know how he must be feeling right now," said Burghardt.
The young Norwegian has been tipped for greatness from within the sport and with a cluster of impressive wins already under his belt his manager believes that more could follow. "Edvald is so strong and you should never underestimate any of the guys on team. He was sick in Flanders but I knew he could do it as soon as he turned on the power on the Kemmelberg and caught Kuschynski. When he's good, he's very, very good," Stapleton said.
After a disappointing Tour of Flanders, in which many of the team crashed – Hincapie even went down in the last 200 meters – Stapleton was pleased with how the team had reacted. "These guys want to win and this wasn't a practice race. We have great depth in the team."