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Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen fights back after Sanremo disappointment

25-year-old Norwegian rebounds for the cobbled classics after falling ill at Milano-Sanremo

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HARELBEKE, Belgium (VN) — Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) turns his motor, searching for top speed in E3 Harelbeke after suffering in Milano-Sanremo. Food poisoning got the best of him. It risked ruining his classics season.

“He was sick. The last few days up in Tenerife, he’d been sick. He felt really quite weak,” Sky’s performance manager Rod Ellingworth told VeloNews.

“At the beginning of Sanremo, he was okay, then with all the cold and everything, he just felt empty. It’s a little bit of a concern because it’s happened a couple of times with him. The last couple of years it just hasn’t worked out for him this time of year. It must be quite annoying for him.”

Ellingworth spoke ahead of the E3 Harelbeke Friday morning in a rather crisp and cold Belgium. Just like Tom Boonen (OmegaPharma-Quick Step), the race is an important test for Norway’s 25-year-old.

Boasson Hagen wants to prove he is an important component in Sky’s classics squad. He wants to equal his 2009 Ghent-Wevelgem win.

He never reveals much and is as cold as the cool air this morning in Harelbeke. Ellingworth tried to shed light on Boasson Hagen’s mood.

“He seems all right, he’s a happy sort of guy but he never gives too much away,” Ellingworth added. “I’m sure he’ll be disappointed.”

More than Eddy

Despite the cold air and Boasson Hagen‘s setback, Ellingworth had every reason to smile. Sky’s classics team has several strong arms reaching out for the win.

Ian Stannard proved strong in Sanremo in an escape with Sylvain Chavanel (OmegaPharma). Geraint Thomas and Bernard Eisel are also firing.

“I wouldn’t say that Edvald is the out-and-out leader of this team,” Ellingworth said. “It’s not like we all go in for Edvald. You can never say no with him, but we’ve got a good group with Edvald, G, Ian and Bernie.

“You’ve got options, you’ve got to play the options a little bit. That’s the beauty of these races, you just don’t know what will happen. That’s what makes it entertaining.”

Tenerife test

Sky is also waiting to see how its classics team responds after spending time training at altitude at Tenerife, an island off the coast of West Africa.

Instead of the traditional path — Tirreno-Adriatico or Paris-Nice — the classics group went to the Spanish island at the end of February. The riders stayed until Milano-Sanremo.

It was Boasson Hagen’s first such high-altitude training camp.

“We’re trying something different and after the next four races will see if it’ll pay off or not. There’s no question the physical training has paid off. It really just comes down to them working together on the tactics and racing well,” Ellingworth said.

“They had a good time, they could see why the [grand tour] guys have been going well after training up there.”

The group trained often along the coast and some on the climb to the team’s hotel at 2100 meters. Ellingworth said it was as much and even more specific work than they would have had racing Tirreno-Adriatico or Paris-Nice.

Doubts remain

Despite having specific training and experience under his belt, doubts remain on Boasson Hagen’s ability to pull off another big classic win.

Brian Holm worked as a sports director at HTC-Highroad in Boasson Hagen’s first years in the pro ranks, 2008 and 2009. Though now with OmegaPharma, he keeps watch on Eddy and is confident.

“He’s just strong,” Holm told VeloNews in January. He compared him to star Peter Sagan (Cannondale). “In the longer races, I think Boasson Hagen is stronger, for the big classics.”

If it does not click in today’s 211-kilometer race, Boasson Hagan’s training and experience should eventually earn him another classic win. He races in the 235.5km Ghent-Wevelgem on Sunday, and then the 256.2km Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) next week.

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