'Steady Eddy' Boasson Hagen gets another podium finish in Tour de France sprint

Norwegian consistently strong in bunch sprints, although he recognises Kittel is stronger

The frustration with which Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) hammered the bars as he crossed the finish line in Pau gave a clear indication just how badly his latest Tour de France defeat by Marcel Kittel (Quick Step) had hurt.

The frustration with which Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) hammered the bars as he crossed the finish line in Pau gave a clear indication just how badly his latest Tour de France defeat by Marcel Kittel (Quick Step) had hurt.

However, the Norwegian is enjoying a purple patch of sprint success in the 2017 Tour de France that he has not seen on an international level since he won a stage of the 2016 Criterium du Dauphine by out-powering no less a sprinter than Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) at Belley.

Eleventh in the chaotic sprint in Vittel, which saw his Dimension Data teammate Mark Cavendish poleaxed by Peter Sagan and crashed out of the race, Boasson Hagen claimed an agonisingly close second behind Kittel in Nuits-Saint-Georg.

After a 10th place in Bergerac, he was back on the stage podium again in Pau, taking third having followed Kittel's back wheel almost into the final metres. Then the German veered towards the centre, Boasson Hagen continued straight on, only to glance right in frustration as both Kittel and Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNl-Jumbo) roared past.

"I would like to have been closer, and I have been as well," he joked, "but I had a perfect lead-out from the team and they did a really good job."

Dimension Data were present in force on the front in the closing kilometres, with the 30-year-old able to weave his way through a chaotic finale as the breakaway of the day was brought back. But the gaps were, to his regret, not as small as in Nuits-Saint-Georges, where Kittel won by less than six millimetres.

"Marcel is the fastest in this Tour, but we're getting close. Well not really close, actually, but he's really good," Boasson Hagen said.

"If I get a clear run, I have good power, but I often get blocked in the sprints and it's harder to fight. But when the team does a really good job like it did today and on the other days, then I can release the power and get quite good in the sprints.

"It's a pity if I didn't take the win today."

Asked if Kittel could be beaten in the few sprints remaining, Boasson Hagen said, "I hoped so, but he seems to be really good."

Boasson Hagen also fielded questions about breakaways and how hard it was for them to succeed in shaking off the iron grip of the sprinters' teams: "Because it's flat stages and most likely to be a sprint," was his succinct explanation, "so all the teams work for that, so it's not as easy as all that."

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