Team Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen, whose fitness for this year’s Tour de France had been thrown in doubt after he was diagnosed with shingles a little over a week before it was due to start, is this evening celebrating his second stage victory of the race after attacking on the final climb and holding his nerve on the descent into Pinerolo this afternoon.
The 24-year-old, who had finished second to fellow Norwegian Thor Hushovd in Gap yesterday, once again slipped into the day’s breakaway, comprising 14 riders, which got away with about 60 kilometres raced as the Tour headed from France into Italy.
The conclusion of the 179 kilometre stage from Gap featured the 8 kilometre climb of the Cote de Pramartino followed by a very tricky descent of similar distance into Pinerolo on a narrow, twisting, tree-lined road with a poor surface, dappled sunshine further adding to the difficulty facing the riders.
Euskaltel-Eusadi’s Ruben Perez had held a 45 second advantage on his fellow breakaway riders as he turned off the main road onto that climb, with the main peloton a further 6 minutes back.
The Basque rider was caught halfway up the climb by pursuers headed by Quick Step’s Sylvain Chavanel, with Boasson Hagen immediately attacking and heading over the summit on his own on his way to victory by 40 seconds from Rabobank’s Bauke Mollema.
“It was a really great day today,” said Boasson Hagen. “I felt a bit disappointed yesterday to not win. I really wanted the win today and I did everything I could to get into the break again. My team-mates did a great job to help me get into it.”
The Norwegian, along with Geraint Thomas, had tried to slip into a ten-man breakaway early on in the stage but it was quickly brought back.
"It was really hard to get away in the group as riders were chasing behind,” he reflected. “Finally we made it away and I was feeling great the whole day.
"I really wanted to win so I got some extra power from that and also from all the Norwegian fans out on the course. It’s so nice to win.
Team Sky had last month performed a recce of today’s stage, partly with an eye to Bradley Wiggins contesting the GC before he was forced out of the race following his Stage 7 crash.
However, Boasson Hagen, who had won in Lisieux the evening before Wiggins’ crash, had targeted today’s stage even before losing his team leader.
"We did the route in training earlier on this year and I was thinking about this stage. I had a plan and everything was perfect,” he explained.
"The race goes into some really hard stages now so I will try to save my legs for the time trial,” he added, referring to Saturday’s 42.5 kilometre ride in Grenoble, which he rode in June’s Criterium du Dauphiné, finishing third behind Tony Martin of HTC-Highroad and eventual overall winner Wiggins.
"That was a top notch performance from Eddy and from the team,” enthused Team Sky Sports Director Sean Yates after Boasson Hagen’s win.
“He has the legs, he showed that yesterday. Today he won with his legs as well as his head.
"He was very motivated,” Yates continued. After yesterday he was a bit peeved about the result but there was nothing he could do about that. But regardless today he made amends. It was a big result.
“It was a pretty gnarly descent at the end there,” he added. “The boys have done it in training. Edvald looked at it this morning on the laptop as we had a film. But Edvald is not afraid, he is a superb bike-handler. It was a formality for him once he got over the top they were never going to bring him back unless he crashed.
"The team worked better than anybody to be in that breakaway. They were the definition of a team, with everyone helping each other out and motivating each other. G [Thoms] was up there in an early break with Eddy that Garmin chased down for a long, long time. But Eddy really had the bit between his teeth today and there was no stopping him basically."
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.