Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) has taken his time to return to racing after he broke his right collarbone in a crash at Gent-Wevelgem in March, but he's back on track at his beloved Tour of Norway – the race promoted by his long time agent Birger Hungerholt. Next week's Tour des Fjords is more of Alexander Kristoff's affair, and the ASO organised Arctic Race of Norway in August has had Thor Hushovd as an ambassador since its inception in 2013.
"From my first sprint (third in Sarpsborg behind Kristoff and Australian sensation Caleb Ewan -ed), I've felt good so I hope to be up there on GC after the two hard stages to come,' Boasson Hagen told Cyclingnews ahead of stage 3 overlooking the sea in Langesund. "Seven days after my crash, I was able to train on rollers and it took me seventeen days only until I was able to ride my bike outside. For one month, I've remained at home training in Oslo and around, although it wasn't pain free. That's the reason why I didn't rush to racing again. I preferred to have some time to train properly. The initial plan was to take a break after Paris-Roubaix and resume racing at the Tour of Norway, so we kept that plan despite the crash.
"Before Gent-Wevelgem (a race he won in 2009 at the age of 21 and still the only classic on his record book), I was feeling stronger than in previous years," added the Norwegian who finished tenth in Milan-San Remo this year. "I watched some of the classics. Kristoff was impressive."
Boasson Hagen admitted a long time rivalry with his compatriot who was his teammate only for one season at Maxbo-Bianchi (the team now called Joker) in 2007. "We've always been fighting each other", the versatile rider from Lillehammer said. "When one of us won a race, the other one wanted to win as well. We've always been really close in terms of level. I was better than him before, he's better than me now, it's pretty normal, but I haven't lost any motivation. I still want to try and win every race I start.
"Our performances help cycling get bigger every year in Norway," Boasson Hagen continued. "It started with Thor, Kurt [Asle Arvesen] and me. Now everyone here knows the Tour de France and many Norwegians come out to watch races on the road sides. Even on working days, it's popular and it's very successful on TV too."
The Tour of Norway is the beginning of his lead up to the Tour de France. Tour des Fjords, Critérium du Dauphiné and national championships are next on his agenda. "I want to start winning some races again," he said. "Hopefully I'll do it before the Tour de France and also during the Tour de France. My condition will get better and better by July. It feels good to be back and hopefully I can show it. I don't know the composition of the MTN-Qhubeka team for the Tour yet but we won't have a GC rider and there'll be opportunities for breakaways. We have strong riders for different scenarios."
For Boasson Hagen, joining the South African team looked like a long walk to freedom after five years at Team Sky. "They liked me as a worker," he said of the British team. "But I also got my opportunities and I never had an argument or anything. I was happy at Sky but it's good to have changes in a career."