On paper at least, Edvald Boasson Hagen appears the perfect foil to Geraint Thomas in Sky’s line-up for the Tour of Flanders. With the Welshman agitating to go on the offensive in the finale, Boasson Hagen could sit on behind, keeping his powder dry in the event of a group sprint in Oudenaarde.
Would it were that simple, of course. De Ronde is raced on cobbles and hills, not on paper. And besides, Boasson Hagen himself admits that he is not entirely sure if he would bank on his sprint against the likes of Peter Sagan, John Degenkolb and Tom Boonen.
“They’re stronger riders but we’ll have to see what the position is. If it’s possible to attack, that may be better, but we’ll have to see. It’s also flat in the end. It’s fast and it’s hard to get away,” Boasson Hagen told reporters in Kortrijk.
“I’ve not been sprinting really well in the big sprints, but then I think a sprint in this race is different to other races when you’re fresher. I don’t want a big group for the sprint, but I think I’m sprinting pretty well.”
Instead, it seems as though Boasson Hagen might look to reprise his fine showing at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in February, when he infiltrated a break with Niki Terpstra in the finale before protecting teammate Ian Stannard’s interests when he went away in the race-winning move. At the Tour of Flanders, Thomas is Team Sky’s leader, and Boasson Hagen hinted that he was ready to beat a path for him by going on the offensive beforehand.
“Not in an early break or the last one, but maybe a bit before,” he said. “It’s hard with the tactics for these races. Of course, it’s going to be a hard race at the start with some attacks. After that, maybe it’s also easier to ride in front in a breakaway because you don’t have to fight for a position. It’s hard one, I don’t really know what’s going to happen.”
Boasson Hagen’s third place finish at Het Nieuwsblad was his best showing on the cobbles since he landed victory in Gent-Wevelgem five years ago and it seemed to augur well for his classics hopes. Since then, however, his spring campaign has been similar to those of the past three seasons, with no major result to show for his efforts.
“I was good at Het Nieuwsblad. For the rest, I didn’t have any good results, but I’ve been feeling ok and I’ve done good training during the winter,” Boasson Hagen said. “I’m still waiting for the big results. It’s only two to go now, so I cross the fingers for those.”
The 26-year-old Norwegian will be joined in Sky’s Tour of Flanders team by Bradley Wiggins, a late addition to the roster as a replacement for the injured Ian Stannard. It is Wiggins’ first appearance in a cobbled classic since he raced Paris-Roubaix in 2011, and Boasson Hagen acknowledged that nobody quite knows what to expect from the former Tour de France winner.
“He’s also a strong rider, of course. It’s hard to say. I haven’t seen him on the cobbles in a long time. But if he’s in a good shape he could be good and maybe no-one is expecting him that much. So it could be good for the team.”