PIACENZA, Italy (VN) – On just about any other team, Edvald Boasson Hagen would be the star attraction at a pre-Milan-San Remo press conference.
Nonetheless, Thursday evening the quiet Norwegian was severely overshadowed by his teammate is 2009 San Remo winner and reigning world champion Mark Cavendish. Boasson Hagen was resigned to sitting awkwardly unnoticed before the assembled media.
When he was finally asked about Team Sky’s strategy, the blond-haired 24-year-old gave just the answer that Cavendish wanted to hear.
“If he gets over the climbs, I will lead him out in the sprint. There are not many who can beat him,” Boasson Hagen said. “If it’s a sprint, Mark will win. I will do everything for him.”
A proven winner of such races as Gent-Wevelgem and stages at the Tour de France make Boasson Hagen a legitimate contender in the season’s first classic.
In fact, Boasson Hagen could well be the dark horse of this year’s Milan-San Remo.
A stage-victory at a hard-fought Tirreno-Adriatico proved he’s on form just in time for the 298km run from Milan to the Italian Riviera.
“I am feeling strong after Tirreno. I can follow any moves over the Poggio. I can do something there if I can make it over and Mark is not there,” he said. “I feel ready. We have a really strong team. Cav is in good form. I think we can do really good.”
Team Sky has Cavendish as its ace in the hole. The team’s strategy will be simple: put Boasson Hagen on the attack over the Cipressa and Poggio to cover any dangerous moves.
If a group stays clear, Boasson Hagen can sit back, not do any work and save his legs for a reduced-sized bunch sprint.
And if Cavendish makes it over the two climbs as expected, then EBH can give the world champion a world-class lead-out.
Either scenario, Boasson Hagen expects to be there when it counts.
“If he is not able to get over the climbs, then I will have to try something,” he said. “I will try if he’s not there.”
While Boasson Hagen is very exciting on the bike, his off-the-bike comments hardly elicit the kind of response that some of Cavendish’s headline-making declarations sometimes do.
That’s hardly stuff to stop the presses, but Boasson Hagen is anything but controversial.
The fact that he was all but ignored by the media might change Saturday, especially if Cavendish falters on the Poggio and Eddy B is hanging back in an attacking group and then roars to victory.
Then it will be Boasson Hagen who steps center-stage, at least for a day.