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Vuelta a Espana

Vuelta a España: Carl Fredrik Hagen crashes heavily in first grand tour since 2020

Norwegian climber continued in the race in what's his first grand tour since a devastating spill in 2021 that nearly ended his career.

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SAN MIGUEL DE AGUAYO, Spain (VN) — Carl Fredrik Hagen, the Norwegian climber on Israel-Premier Tech, crashed heavily on wet roads in Thursday’s sixth stage of the Vuelta a España.

Hagen slammed hard as a few riders slipped out on a sweeping right-hander just as speeds ramped up in the GC bunch heading toward the day’s two final climbs.

Hagen lay still on the ground but eventually sat up, grimacing in pain as doctors checked him over for injuries.

Team officials confirmed Hagen was able to remount his bike and continue in the stage.

The 30-year-old is on the comeback trail during this Vuelta following a devastating crash in March 2021 that caused severe damage to his right arm and shoulder that nearly ended his racing career.

VeloNews spoke to Hagen at the start of the stage in Bilbao on Thursday morning, and he expressed optimism about a return to form in what’s his first grand tour since the 2020 Giro d’Italia.

“This is the first time since my crash that I am starting to feel good again on the bike,” Hagen said in Bilbao. “I had a difficult season last year with my arm injury, and the beginning of this season I had a bit of illness.”

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“Since late April, I’ve been healthy all the way,” Hagen said. “My shape is getting better and better. I feel like I am back at a good level, and my overall shape is ready for stage racing. I am really happy to be back in a grand tour.”

Hagen: ‘I almost had to end my racing career’

Carl Fredrik Hagen feared the worse following a heavy crash in 2021. (Photo: Noa Arnon/ISN)

A former Nordic skier, Hagen caused a sensation in the 2019 Vuelta when he rode to eighth overall in his grand tour debut while racing with Lotto-Soudal.

That result helped him land at Israel Premier tech in 2021, but a training crash that spring resulted in his right arm severely damaged after striking a traffic guardrail on a high-speed descent.

At the time, Hagen even feared that his arm had been amputated during the horrific crash. A series of surgeries and rehabilitation sessions revived his career.

After some solid results this summer, Hagen started the Vuelta with freedom to chase the GC. He started Thursday’s stage 40th overall at about 1:30 behind three-time defending champion Primož Roglič.

“I am here for the GC. I will try to race smart,” Hagen said Thursday morning. “Of course, I will not say no to a stage win, but I will not kill myself for a stage win and then pay the price the next day. I feel well-prepared and I am ready to fight.

“I still have some issues with my arm, but it’s something you get used to live with. It is what it is, and I am dealing with it,” Hagen said. “I have to handle the bar in a little bit different way. It could have been much, much worse. I almost had to end my cycling career, so I am happy I am still able to race.

“I have to have some different movements, and my ligaments are still stiff on the right side,” Hagen said Thursday. “There is still some bit of nerve damage, but there is not a big problem. I am not trying to focus on it too much anymore, and I am focusing on the positive things.”