Edvald Boasson Hagen was a shining light on a dour day for Team Sky at The Tour of Flanders last week, finishing in 17th place with the British outfit ravaged by illness and bad luck.
With the Norwegian cagey over whether the training-focussed regime in the lead up to the Classics has been ideal for his own chances, there is much hinging on his performance on Sunday at Paris-Roubaix.
"For me it's not been a really good start to the season for results, but I've been getting better and better every race," Boasson Hagen told a cosy media conference in Kortrijk on Friday evening. "Now the Classics are nearly over, there's just one race to go, but we could do a good race there and it still could be a good Classics."
Boasson Hagen's program has certainly not been race-heavy: he put the Tour Down Under and the Tour of Qatar under his belt before Sky began its Classics campaign at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, but he says that he is growing in confidence.
"I have no problems with training," he explained. "I can get fit by training and we've got a really good group. We've been training well together. I enjoy doing that as well.
"When you're racing you can be more sure about how your form is... it's not just a number."
Having fallen out of the lead group on the Cipressa at Milan-San Remo and then failing to finish on a challenging day, his form in Belgium has been solid: the 25-year-old finished 9th at E3 Harelbeke and then 20th at Gent-Wevelgem prior to Flanders. There, Boasson Hagen stuck with the powerful chase group containing eventual winner Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) but just couldn't quite match their explosiveness when the attacks came on the final ascent of the Kwaremont.
"Yeah it's a bit hard to follow them. I didn't have the legs there to follow them, but hopefully I can follow if he tries to on the flat and attack again," Boasson Hagen said with optimism regarding the flatter parcours on offer at Paris-Roubaix. "It was impressive what they did there.
"Of course you always hope to be up there when they go. It was hard to follow but I was at the right spots all the time and I'm happy with the form I had there. I didn't have the legs at the moment in the sprint, I wasn't that good either. It's a long hard race."
Boasson Hagen has made no secret of his desire to win Roubaix and he says that he prefers it to Flanders.
"It's a really long and tough race and I feel that as I'm getting older, I'm also getting stronger so it should be possible [to win]," he said.
"I like both of them and now I'm starting to know the roads well in Flanders as well, but it's Roubaix that has been my biggest goal so far and it still will be," he continued. "So I would like to win Roubaix first and then Flanders but if it's swapped around (laughs) whatever comes first."
Standing in his way is the outright favourite Cancellara, who said earlier in the day that Sky would be a team that he expects to attack the RadioShack Leopard squad. Asked how he thought two consecutive days of crashes would affect Cancellara's chances come Sunday, Boasson Hagen was doubtful of any negative impact.
"I don't know... He's really strong anyway. As long as he's on the start line he's strong. It's hard for the body when you crash and it's bad for him. But shit happens."
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As a sports journalist and producer since 1997, Jane has covered Olympic and Commonwealth Games, rugby league, motorsport, cricket, surfing, triathlon, rugby union, and golf for print, radio, television and online. However her enduring passion has been cycling.
Jane is a former Australian Editor of Cyclingnews from 2011 to 2013 and continues to freelance within the cycling industry.
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