“I can’t ask anything of him after Paris-Roubaix,” is how Dimension Data’s director Jens Zemke reacts when asked what kind of result the team are expecting from Edvald Boasson Hagen this Sunday in the Amstel Gold Race after he finished fifth in Paris-Roubaix. “Anything else we get from him now is a bonus.”
Although Roubaix winner Mathew Hayman (Orica-GreenEdge) is also racing Amstel Gold, it will likely be in a support role for Michael Matthews and Simon Gerrans. On the other hand, Boasson Hagen’s silver medal in the Valkenberg World’s, with the same finish on the Cauberg, suggests that a week after battling for victory in Roubaix, the Norwegian could once more be an outside favourite for the win in the Dutch Classic, too.
In 2012, 2013 and 2014, Boasson Hagen has also regularly raced through the cobbled Classics before pulling down the curtain on his spring one-day campaign in Amstel Gold, although in 2015, after breaking his collarbone in Gent-Wevelgem, that was obviously not possible.
“Anything we get from him now will be a bonus,” Dimension Data Jens Zemke reiterates to Cyclingnews. “He’s been really up there all the way since Qatar” - where Boasson Hagen finished fifth behind team-mate Mark Cavendish after a double puncture on the second last stage when leading scuppered his chances - “so normally by this point, after doing all the cobbled classics, you’re done after Paris-Roubaix. But I asked him if he’d liked to race Amstel, he was fine with that, so it’s another chance for him.
“We have also Kristian Sparagli, who rode well last year, finishing in the top 20 and winning the bunch sprint for the second group - which was last year good for us, this year the expectations are a lot higher.”
Those expectations are certainly raised by the presence of Boasson Hagen for Dimension Data on the Maastricht start line but there is no question of demanding a top result from the Norwegian a week on from Roubaix, Zemke insists. “I can’t put pressure on him now. With Sparagli and Serge Pauwels for late attacks” - as he did last year - "it’s a pretty good team all round.”
Whilst Boasson Hagen remains an outside bet for Amstel Gold, “The big team to watch tomorrow will be Orica with [Michael] Matthews, [Michael] Albasini, [Daryl] Impey and [Simon] Gerrans,” predicts Zemke. “They will be a massively strong squad, together with BMC and Philippe Gilbert.” Zemke refuses to believe that Gilbert will be significantly weaker on Sunday after his training accident last week. “He never rides at 80 percent, he’ll want to go for the win and if you look at the way he’s ridden up this climb [the Cauberg] in the last five or six years, then he’s clearly a favourite.”
For Boasson Hagen, in any case, Amstel Gold Race is definitely the last race before the Norwegian pulls over for a much lengthier pitstop - and prior to turning his attention to the summer. As for the Ardennes Classics, at Fleche Wallonne, Zemke says Dimension Data will, if past results are anything to go by given he’s twice finished in the top five on the Mur de Huy - be racing for Igor Anton before focussing on their younger riders at Liege-Bastognge-Liege.