Boasson-Hagen, Burghardt headline Columbia's Belgian roster

Edvald Boasson Hagen (Columbia)

Edvald Boasson Hagen (Columbia) (Image credit: Gerry McManus)

Columbia-Highroad's Edvald Boasson-Hagen will step up to the big leagues when he contests the Belgian semi-classics Het Nieuwsblad (nee Het Volk) and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

"Edvald has had a great first year as a pro with us in 2008, winning three stages of the Tour of Britain as well as a stage of the Eneco Tour," said director sportif Allan Peiper, "but we want to see what he can do in the Classics, too."

"He had a bit of a cold so he missed out on the Tour of the Algarve, but we're sure he'll put in a good performance here in Belgium."

Saturday's Het Nieuwsblad is the tougher of the two, Peiper said. "[It is] so early in the season it's never easy to know who's got what kind of form. The combination makes things very unpredictable. The race itself has three big climbs in the final, the Eikenberg, Wolvenberg and Molenberg and three sections of cobbles in the last 40 kilometres. I've heard the last one's extremely muddy!"

Joining Boasson-Hagen will be Marcus Burghardt, winner of the 2007 Gent-Wevelgem. "I know that Marcus is is very motivated after missing out on the Classics last year because he had knee problems. He did the Tours of Qatar, Mallorca and the Algarve, which are the right kind of stepping stones to build up for the Classics," said Peiper.

Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne will be more than a revenge match after Het Nieuwsblad according to Peiper. "The race is more suited to the sprinters, but it's also tricky to predict because anybody's who has gone all out on the Saturday in Het Nieuwsblad will not be in good shape for Sunday. Really, you've got to make a choice."

"We're lucky in Columbia-Highroad because we don't have such a structured set-up as some other teams in that we have no set leader for each race. Here it's a question of working for whoever's good on the day."

Looking further south, a Columbia-Highroad team will also race in Spain on Sunday at the single-day GP Almeria. Greg Henderson will lead the team there.

Columbia-Highroad for Het Nieuwsblad & Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: Edvald Boasson-Hagen, Marcus Burghardt, Bert Dockx, Bernhard Eisel, Bert Grabsch, Frantisek Rabon, Vincente Reynes, Marcel Sieberg.

Columbia-Highroad for GP Almeria: Michael Albasini, Greg Henderson, Craig Lewis, Tony Martin, Maxime Monfort, Marco Pinotti, Morris Possoni, Kanstantsin Sivtsov.

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