Despite losing his gold leader’s jersey, Mark Cavendish is delighted as teammate Edvald Boasson Hagen takes the leader’s jersey in the Tour of Qatar.
Cavendish seemed relaxed at the start of Wednesday’s time trial in Qatar. Waiting on the start ramp, he was laughing as the speaker speculated just how much time the then gold jersey wearer would lose on the 11.4km circuit.
He did lose time but his was no bad performance. Finishing 7th, with a time of 14 minutes 10, he was just 44 seconds behind team mate Boasson Hagen, who now leads the general classification by 26 seconds from the Briton in second place.
“I was brought up in the UK riding ten miles,” Cavendish told waiting reporters. “It’s something I’ve done since I was 12 years old. Normally in another race I would use it as a rest day, but I had the gold jersey.
Even before stage one the Manxman was tipping Boasson Hagen to win today. Each day he stressed how the Norwegian road and time trial champion was a good bet for the win. And so it proved. Indeed today’s press conference Cavendish was full of praise for his teammate.
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Dimension Data is the third team the two have shared, with both riding at Highroad, Sky in the past, with 28-year-old Boasson Hagen joining the current outfit last year as MTN-Quebeka. This recurring collaboration means they know each other well, so Cavendish is in the perfect position to comment on his colleague’s progression.
“One thing I’ve noticed since riding with him last is how he has grown as a leader,” Cavendish said. “He’s one of the old guys in the team now, and for a quiet lad he really motivates the others.
“He knows how to ride in a unit, he knows how to be the leader and road captain. It’s superb to see him grow in a leadership role and he definitely inspires the young athletes.”
Before his 2010 move to Team Sky, Boasson Hagen had been on a steep upward trajectory, but during his four seasons with the British team he became increasingly anonymous, perhaps stifled by Grand Tour aspirations.
He is far too polite to say that, however, responding today saying, “It is nice to change now and then but I had a good time in Sky as well.”
Cavendish was more succinct.
“He’s the same rider he was, he’s never changed. He was kind of in service at Sky, so you didn’t get to see what he could do.
“I rode with him and he was still as strong as ever, but obviously we had bigger ambitions at Sky. But he is back in an environment where he can flourish as a racer and he’s definitely shown that.”
After today’s Norwegian flourish, Dimension Data now occupy the first two places at the Tour of Qatar and, while anything can happen in such a race, Friday could see Boasson Hagen win his second consecutive stage race, after his Tour of Britain win last September.
As for Cavendish, though he is only 26 second behind his team mate, he doesn’t care which of them wins. “As long as we win the GC it doesn’t matter.”