Edvald Boasson Hagen is to leave Team Sky after five years with the British WorldTour outfit and is joining the South Africa-based Professional Continental team, MTN-Qhubeka.
The 27-year-old Norwegian joined Team Sky in its debut season of 2010 after enjoying the best year of his career to date with Columbia-HTC, winning Gent-Wevelgem, a stage of the Giro d’Italia, and the overall titles at the Eneco Tour and the Tour of Britain.
Seen at the time as one of the emerging stars of the peloton, his career has not progressed as those earlier successes suggested it should, which some attribute to his regular use as a support rider for Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.
There were some high spots – two Tour de France stage wins in 2011, the second of those after a solo attack to Pinerolo in Italy after Bradley Wiggins had crashed out of the race, a number of stage wins in Tirreno-Adriatico and the Criterium du Dauphiné, a second Eneco Tour victory and, in 2012, second place to Philippe Gilbert in the road race at the World Championships.
Boasson Hagen, who was also courted by Tinkoff-Saxo but decided not to join the team because he felt its signing of Peter Sagan would limit his opportunities, said he felt it was time to move on and that MTN-Qhubeka, which through Gerald Ciolek pulled of a surprise win at last year’s Milan-San Remo, was the ideal team for him.
“It´s been five great seasons with Team Sky, but the time has come to seek new challenges,” he said. “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.
“I´ve had several options for the future, among them also WorldTour teams. But after some consideration this is the team I most of all want to ride for in the future.
“They are upgrading the team for next season, but already this year they have received wild cards for most of the races I would like to do next year. The team takes part in the Vuelta right now, which is their first Grand Tour. For next year they are targeting the Tour.
“So I feel safe about the race programme, and I really look forward to focus on new goals in the MTN-Qhubeka jersey.”
Founded in 2007, MTN-Qhubeka aims to bring African talent through into the professional peloton as well as raising funds for the Qhubeka Foundation, which donates bicycles to people under its #BicyclesChangeLives campaign.
Those elements of the team’s character were part of its appeal to Boasson Hagen, who added: “The African riders I have seen race this year and I hope to help them with my experience as they are great talents. The other thing I really enjoy is this team does not just race for themselves but for a charity.”
Team principal Douglas Ryder said the outfit was “really excited” at Boasson Hagen joining. “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,” he said.
“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
“In the last two years of racing as a Pro Continental team we have seen our riders develop and perform really well. The team has come a long way because the riders love the opportunities they are getting and they try and make every opportunity count,” he added.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.