Big Syttende Mai for Boasson Hagen
On his birthday and Norway’s national day, the cyclist kicked off a victorious Tour of Norway race
The Norwegian American
The opening stage of the Tour of Norway—the annual road bicycle race hosted by Norway since 2011—was an extra special occasion this year; it was held on the 17th of May, Norwegian Constitution Day. It also happened to be the 30th birthday of one of Norway’s top cyclists, Edvald Boasson Hagen, who won the race overall in 2012 and 2013 and finished as the runner up both of the last two years.
It should be no surprise then that a first-stage victory would be extra meaningful for Boasson Hagen, who races for Team Dimension Data. It wasn’t going to be an easy task, however, as the 21 teams—five World Tour, 10 Pro Continental, and six Continental—raced their way through the 169-kilometer stage from Hønefoss to Asker.
The race started with an early breakaway by Colombian Juan Pablo Villegas (Manzana Postobón) and Norwegians Ludvik Holstad (Team Sparebanken Sør) and Marius Blålid (Team FixIT.no). Together the trio gained an eight-minute lead, but with 70 kilometers to go, it had decreased to three minutes.
During the final 10 kilometers, Andreas Vangstad (Team Sparebanken Sør), Lars Petter Nordhaug (Aqua Blue Sport), Ben O’Connor (Team Dimension Data), and Wout Van Aert (Vérandas Willems-Crelan) made an attack.
With his teammate O’Connor ahead, Boasson Hagen was able to relax a bit and watch the other teams chase the leaders as he saved up his energy.
With two kilometers to go, the group lost their lead and Australian Simon Gerrans (Orica-Scott) made his attack. Belgian Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto Soudal) then made his move with 500 meters to go to overhaul Gerrans. Van der Sande looked to have the victory in the bag, but Boasson Hagen managed to come from behind in the last 200 meters with a strong sprint to pass him on the last hill and take his first victory of the season. Behind Van der Sande in second followed Gerrans in third and Norwegian August Jensen (Team Coop) in fourth.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything more. It’s fantastic. The team did an incredible job today,” said Boasson Hagen to NRK, who celebrated at the finish line in Asker flanked by spectators dressed to the nines in their bunads and suits.
“We rode very well, and we had a man in front so I didn’t have to take responsibility. I had just enough left in my legs to keep up and take the victory,” he added.
Of course, the work was just beginning with four stages remaining: 194 km from Eidsvoll to Brumunddal, 192 km from Hamar to Lillehammer, 194 km from Lillestrøm to Sarpsborg, and the final 155 km from Moss to Oslo.
“There are many tough stages left. It will be fun,” he said, looking forward to the rest of the tour and hoping for continued success.
The Norwegian went on to take third in stage two and second in stage four. Heading into the final stage, he sat in second place behind Pieter Weening (Roompot). If he could manage to make it onto the podium and keep Weening off, he knew he would take the general classification victory.
But when both Boasson Hagen and teammate Mekseb Debesay crashed with just one lap to go in the hilly circuit, he thought he had missed his chance at the overall win. The peloton demonstrated fair play and great respect, however, and decided to wait for him—a generous act that was certainly not required of them.
“I’m very thankful for that. That was nice of them. I had not expected it,” said a gracious Boasson Hagen to NRK.
Back in the pack and with extra adrenaline from the crash, Boasson Hagen managed to sprint to the victory to win stage five and his third overall Tour of Norway victory. In the overall classification, he won ahead of Gerrans in second and Weening in third.
“It was great to decide the race here in front of the Opera House. There were a lot of people, and I wanted to show that it was possible even with a crash. Fortunately, I got back up again quickly and had good help from the team,” he said to VG.
It looks like Boasson Hagen’s incredible start to this year’s race may have been just the boost he needed to come back and regain his title of Tour of Norway champion.
This article originally appeared in the June 2, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.