Tour of Flanders: Boasson Hagen says he's just behind the top favourites

Paris-Roubaix is the main objective for Norwegian national champion

Edvald Boasson Hagen is hoping to collect on his strong early-season form by adding a monument to his trophy case in the next eight days at the Tour of Flanders or Paris Roubaix.

It's a worthy goal for the 28-year-old, who moved last year to the South African Dimension Data team after spending four years with Sky. It comes after he showed top form in February at the Tours of Qatar and Oman, where he won three stages and would have taken the overall in Qatar but for an ill-timed double puncture.

On the eve of De Ronde, Boasson Hagen says he's in good shape and ready for the cobbled classics leading up through Roubaix on April 10.

"I've been in Belgium, I've been doing some recon and it's been really nice," he told Cyclingnews. "I should be ready for tomorrow."

Boasson Hagen's entry into the Belgian classics last weekend at Gent-Wevelgem, where he finished 18th, was hampered by illness, but he said on Saturday that there are no lingering signs of the bug and he should be "all good" for Flanders.

"We will see how it goes, but I should be ok," he said. “[Gent-Wevelgem] wasn't such a good result but I was in really good condition. I was feeling good in the final so I think that the form was good and I should be ready for tomorrow, but it's never an easy race and it's a long race with all the cobbles.”

Cobbles aren't the only obstacles to winning the race, of course, with hot favourites Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) topping most people's list of contenders. Boasson Hagen acknowledged the competition while saying he hoped to be around at the end of the race when the winner is decided.

"I don't see myself as a top favourite but I think that I am just behind them and I will try to be up there," he said. "I see Cancellara and Sagan as the favourites, they are in very good shape. I am also in good shape and I will try to be around and make it to the final in the race."

Boasson Hagen indicated that in a race as difficult as Flanders he expects the legs to be the deciding factor. Tactics will have to be decided on the fly as the race plays out.

"We haven't had the meeting yet,” he said when asked about his team’s plan. “When they attack it will be hard to follow and if I try to attack not everyone will let me go. We will have to wait until tomorrow and make up a plan then.

"It's going to be a fast and hard race," he said. "There are going to be a lot of attacks the whole way through the race."

Although he's previously stated that victory in Roubaix is his top goal for the Classics, Boasson Hagen said he'll be on the start line Sunday in Brugge ready to go for the win.

"I will race for tomorrow, it is a big goal but I will try for both races," he said. "Both of them are big but my main objective and dream is to win Roubaix. I would also love to win Flanders and we will see what happens tomorrow."

Success in the Classics would add to what has already been a successful season for Boasson Hagen, whose string of 50 career wins goes back to 2007 but hit an unexpected draught in 2014. Boasson Hagen moved to the fledgling MTN-Qhubeka team following that season and his appearances on the podium's top step returned.

In 2015 he claimed six wins, including the Norwegian time trial and road race championships and the overall at the Tour of Britain. In Qatar earlier this year he won the crucial time trial and looked to be a shoe-in for the overall before a double puncture on stage 4 put an end to those chances. He bounced back at the Tour of Oman, however, where he won two stages and the sprint jersey.

"It's always good to have wins and you do start getting confidence," he said. "I'm happy that I've got that now but you can't really relax. I need to continue doing what I'm doing but I also still have to do more."

After the Classics, Boasson Hagen will return to the Tour of Norway, where he won the overall in 2012 and 2013, and then continue toward the Tour de France.

"It would be nice to have another victory there, it is the biggest goal," he said of the French Grand Tour. "The Tour of Norway, it's not a big race but it's a home country and I would like to go well there. After these races I will have a small break so I hope to be good there."

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