RONDA, Spain (VN) — The rumor mill was churning during the Tour de France that Edvald Boasson Hagen was heading to Tinkoff-Saxo. With team owner Oleg Tinkov opening his checkbook, big names, such as Peter Sagan, are heading to the team.
On Wednesday, however, there was a bombshell of sorts. The 27-year-old Norwegian is instead bound for professional-continental team MTN-Qhubeka.
The news first broke on Norwegian TV, which follows Boasson Hagen’s every move, and was later confirmed by team management during stage 5 at the Vuelta a España.
MTN-Qhubeka sport director Manel La Cambra confirmed during the broadcast on Spanish television that Boasson Hagen is set to join the team, through 2016.
“He is a big rider, and he will help us in the classics and the grand tours,” La Cambra said on TVE. “It’s big news for the team.”
Moments later, the team released an official confirmation of the news.
“We believe he is one of the best riders in the world and we look forward to seeing him achieve great results for himself as well as mentor our young African talents,” said team principal Douglas Ryder in a press release. “We want to become one of the best teams in the world to assist the African riders to get into the biggest races in cycling, and this is a huge step in that direction.”
The team is already making history as the first African-registered team to race in a grand tour at this Vuelta. With the arrival of Boasson Hagen, the team’s profile will rise even more.
Boasson Hagen, 27, seemed to have been stuck in a rut at Team Sky. With the British squad putting nearly all of its focus on grand tours, the once-prolific Boasson Hagen has reverted into a helper’s role for most of the season. After winning stages in both the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia in previous years, he is winless so far in 2014.
Turning down offers from WorldTour teams, Boasson Hagen instead chose MTN-Qhubeka.
“It’s been five great seasons with Team Sky, but the time has come to seek new challenges. MTN-Qhubeka has a very good platform and a framework that fits me very well, so I´m sure this is a very good choice for the next seasons,” he said in a team release. “For next year they are targeting the Tour. So I feel safe about the race program, and I really look forward to focus on new goals in the MTN-Qhubeka jersey.”
Boasson Hagen’s arrival will also give a huge boost to MTN-Qhubeka’s hopes to race the 2015 Tour de France.