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Boasson Hagen joins list of young winners

71st Gent-Wevelgem - ProT

Belgium, April 8, 2009

Edvald Boasson Hagen, 21, won the 203-kilometre Gent-Wevelgem today in Belgium. The Columbia-Highroad rider escaped with Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas) near the second ascent of the Kemmelberg with 36 kilometres to go. Pre-race favourite Mark Cavendish (Columbia-Highroad) flatted early and subsequently missed the move of the day.

But his young Norwegian teammate Boasson Hagen kept the victory within the team. "It's my biggest win so far," he said. It wasn't planned, though. "I just wanted to do a good job for the team and be in the breakaway." He had strong teammates with him. "George [Hincapie], [Marcus] Burghardt and I worked really well together when they started attacking."

The sprint was almost a formality. "I felt strong and we were working well together until the last kilometre. At 300m to go it was a good moment to take off." He agreed it was a long sprint, "but normally I can hold it and I was confident."

With his win, Boasson Hagen joined an illustrious list that includes Bernard Hinault and Eddy Merckx. Their bond? Winning Gent-Wevelgem at an early age. "That's quite special," admitted Boasson Hagen. Team manager Bob Stapleton added that Edvald Boasson Hagen is also nicknamed Eddy.

Boasson Hagen pursued Kuschynski's move in the twilight of the race, and made contact with the Belarusian after the descent of the Kemmelberg. Knowing it would be hard to beat Boasson Hagen, Kuschynski, "wanted to set a strong rhythm, but in the end I was lacking strength. He got about five metres of an advantage and was just faster in the sprint."

Matthew Goss (Saxo Bank) led Mathew Hayman (Rabobank) and Andreas Klier (Cervélo TestTeam) to the line 53 seconds after the triumphant duo. Goss said the attack wasn't meant to isolate Cavendish. "The early attack was certainly not planned, but with the wind there was always the danger that something would go."

Goss' teammate Fabian Cancellara had bad luck again, having to let the front group go after a puncture. "We had three guys up there, until Fabian punctured," said Goss. "He's had his share of bad luck."

The Cervélo TestTeam looked very strong, placing seven men in the winning move. A crash from Heinrich Haussler reduced the number to six. "We had a good gig going, but that actually turned to our disadvantage," Dominique Rollin said after the race. "When we hit the hills we paid for our efforts early on."

Rollin's teammate Klier couldn't do anything in the end. "It was hopeless, I didn't have the power." Klier indicated that the team is paying for its good early season. "We have been at it since Qatar and it is starting to show a bit."

Koldo Fernández (Euskaltel-Euskadi) took sixth and he was quite muddy after a hard day out in the Belgian rain. "It's a pity I couldn't be in the front. Cervélo had three riders there and I was by myself, so it was impossible to get away. My legs were good, but... On one hand I am content with my race, on the other I am a bit disappointed."

All of the riders were part of a large 33-man escape group that went clear early in the race. The group splintered after the Kemmelberg. Marcus Burghardt (Columbia-Highroad) led home the rest of the group 1:55 later.

The peloton finished 11:35 minutes back. The day was marked with rain and wind.

Favourite Cavendish with bad start

Mark Cavendish (Columbia-Highroad) had a bad start to the race, flatting after seven kilometres. He was quickly back in the bunch, but he then missed a big split three kilometres later. A group of almost 40 riders went away, including four of Cavendish's teammates: Bernhard Eisel, George Hincapie, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Marcus Burghardt.

Assan Bazayev (Astana), Saïd Haddou (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), Steve Chainel (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), Marlon Pérez (Caisse d'Epargne), Nicolas Portal (Caisse d'Epargne), Koldo Fernández (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Yauheni Hutarovich (Française des Jeux), Chris Sutton (Garmin-Slipstream), Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream), Murilo Fischer (Liquigas), Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas), Marcus Burghardt (Columbia-Highroad), Bernhard Eisel (Columbia-Highroad), George Hincapie (Columbia-Highroad), Robbie McEwen (Katusha), Danilo Napolitano (Katusha), Matthew Goss (Saxo Bank), Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank), Jeremy Hunt (Cervélo TestTeam), Andreas Klier (Cervélo TestTeam), Brett Lancaster (Cervélo TestTeam), Daniel Lloyd (Cervélo TestTeam), Gabriel Rasch (Cervélo TestTeam), Hayden Roulston (Cervélo TestTeam), Kenny Van Hummel (Skil-Shimano) , Cyril Lemoine (Skil-Shimano), Klaas Lodewyck (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator), Bram Tankink (Rabobank), Mathew Hayman (Rabobank), Tom Leezer (Rabobank), Michiel Elijzen (Silence-Lotto) and Servais Knaven (Milram) were in the group.

The tailwind kept the pace very high, near 50 km/h. After 68 kilometres Tom Boonen (Quick Step) flatted for the second time and dropped out of the front group. That left no Quick Step rider up front. Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) also was in the lead group and dropped back due to a flat tyre. That was bad luck for the Swiss rider, who already had to abandon the Tour of Flanders due to a mechanical.

Graeme Brown (Rabobank) also made the front group but slipped on the wet roads and ended the day in hospital. Heinrich Haussler was in the front, but dropped back after a crash. His Cervélo TestTeam was still strong, placing six riders in the move of the day (Jeremy Hunt, Daniel Lloyd, Andreas Klier, Brett Lancaster, Gabriel Rasch and Dominique Rollin).

The second group was back by as much as a minute before approaching back to 20 seconds. But then the front group found its second gear and sped away. The gap extended past the one-minute mark and when the Monteberg (km 137) was tackled for the first time, the gap was four minutes.

Over the Kemmelberg the gap dropped to 3:30, but counters in the front group put the gap back to more than four minutes. The lead group tried to rid itself of a few of the six Cervélos, while Cavendish shadowed Boonen up the Kemmelberg in the second group.

After the descent the cross winds split the front group in two halves, with most of the Cervélos in the second part. McEwen was also in the second part, but bridged up solo to the front.

The Cervélo-led second group climbed the Monteberg for the second time some 40 seconds behind the leaders. They were closing in before the second and final climb of the Kemmelberg, but a counter by Kuschynski brought life again into the first group.

Kuschynski was going down ahead, followed by Boasson Hagen. The Norwegian reached Kuschynski after the descent and the two quickly built a lead of 30 seconds. With Hincapie and Burghardt keeping things in check behind the two could stay away until the finish.

The duo had 1:18 with 15 kilometres to race on a trio with Mathew Hayman (Rabobank), Matthew Goss (Saxo Bank) and Andreas Klier (Cervélo TestTeam). The gap was 1:04 at 10km, 0:53 at 5km and 0:49 at 2km.

Kuschynski led the duo down the road's right side in the final 1000m. Boasson Hagen moved left to start his winning charge.

Boasson Hagen is the sixth youngest winner of the race. He is the same age as cycling great Eddy Merckx was when he won in 1967.

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