Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) went down fighting on the penultimate stage of the Tour of Britain. The Norwegian has featured heavily in the sprints so far, having been twice a runner-up as well as having had a win taken away for irregular sprinting, but stage 7 saw him seize the impetus to go on the attack in the final kilometres.
Lying just 19 seconds behind race leader Lars Boom (LottoNL-Jumbo) at the start of the day, the two-time Tour of Britain winner had a third in his sights. And given the hilly nature of the stage’s second half, a race-winning attack wasn’t out of the question. In the end it wasn’t to be, but not for lack of trying.
“It was good. The goal was to be up in front and I was there,” he said while warming down after the stage. “The guys were good in the way they took me into the climb, and yeah that was the plan: to try to follow the front and see what happened.”
“I got away in a group but it wasn’t strong enough to ride away from the peloton. I saw [at] 2km to go that we were going to get caught. So I already tried, and then I didn’t have enough for a sprint.”
Near the top of the stage’s final climb, which lay 9km from the finish, Boasson Hagen had escaped along with Gorka Izagirre (Movistar), Laurens De Plus (Quick-Step Floors), Dylan Van Baarle (Cannondale-Drapac) and Dion Smith (Wanty-Groupe Gobert). Despite building a lead of 15 seconds at one point, Van Baarle crashed on the descent, taking De Plus out of the reckoning with him.
After that, the three men that remained were always going to have a hard time keeping the Katusha- and LottoNL-Jumbo-led peloton at bay. Boasson Hagen wasn’t thrilled by the strength of the group, but conceded that his attempt was necessary in order to have any chance of overall success.
“Well it would’ve been nicer if [the group] were stronger. Then we would’ve stayed away, but we didn’t,” he said. “But that’s the only way to try to win and move up on GC. I didn’t, but if I don’t try I also don’t move up.”
The Dimension Data man, who lies 20 seconds behind Boom in eighth, added that it would a tough ask to close the gap on tomorrow’s final stage to Cardiff, which ends with 50km of flat roads.
“I think it’s going to be hard [to do anything]. But I’ve been riding pretty well this race and I lost a bit of time in the time trial,” he said. “But that’s how it feels. It feels OK, but I haven’t had the win yet.
“There’s a chance tomorrow but GC is probably not possible - but you never know. We’ll have to see and make the tactics, but most likely it will be [a sprint].”
Perhaps the form man of this year’s Tour of Britain, despite being winless thus far, Boasson Hagen has one last shot to set things right. With an eye on the World Championships in two weeks time though (on Thursday saying: “Hopefully I can keep [my form] or get even better for the Worlds”), a winless Tour of Britain would be a price he’d surely pay if he ends up pulling on the rainbow jersey in Bergen.