Edvald Boasson Hagen may be re-born for the 2015 season after leaving Sky for a fresh start at Africa’s MTN-Qhubeka team.
“We signed Tyler Farrar and Matt Goss, as well. These riders are not lost souls,” Team Principal Doug Ryder told Cycling Weekly.
“[Gerald] Ciolek was inspired by our team to ride better. Our team is motivating and inspiring, and it does get the best out of people. That’s what these guys have seen and why they are attracted to our team.”
Germany’s Ciolek raced for first division teams like Omega Pharma but took a chance to sign for South Africa’s MTN team ahead of 2013, its first year in the second division. Three months in, he won Milan-San Remo in MTN’s yellow and black colours.
MTN-Qhubeka receives support from Africa’s telecommunications giant MTN and from electronics manufacturer Samsung. Qhubeka is a non-profit group designed to provide poor Africans with bicycles in exchange for good deeds, such as growing 100 trees to 10 centimetres.
The team featured an 18:8 mix of Africans to non-Africans for 2014. Ryder and General Manager Brian Smith hired more experienced hands to help their budding Africans like South African Louis Meintjes and Eritrean Merhawi Kudus.
Norway’s Boasson Hagen, now 27 years old, won the Tour of Britain, a stage in the Critérium du Dauphiné and in the Giro d’Italia, and the Ghent-Wevelgem classic with HTC-Highroad in 2008 and 2009. Insiders believed he had the talent to win a grand tour one day, or at least dominate the classics, but hopes faded over the following years.
‘Eddy’ won less over the next five years in the British super team. He took two stages in the 2011 Tour de France and the 2012 GP Ouest Plouay, but faded to zero wins in 2014.
“When I saw him racing for the first time in 2008 at the Tour of Britain, he was just like a kid and just smashed everyone. He seemed to get a bit lost, didn’t seem to race for himself and plans changed,” Ryder said.
“If you look at the Japan Cup where he finished second and in the Tour of Beijing this month, he rode well. You don’t turn a donkey into a race horse, and he’s definitely not a donkey. He’s just a race horse who seems to have a thorn in his foot that we just have to take out.
“With the respect and support he will have in our team, he’ll have an incredible couple of years on our team. He’s by no means done.”
Besides their experience, the new cyclists should help MTN have a better chance of riding in the 2015 Tour de France. Last year, it was just on the cusp of selection, and this year it wants one of the wildcard invitations on offer form organiser ASO.
“There’s still massive interest around Edvald. The ASO spoke to us about him, ‘Well done for signing Edvald.’ People still see his potential.
“Some are quite harsh, when you are going poorly they kick you. That’s going to motivate him to a great performance. He’ll have a good winter and come out well for 2015.”
Briton Steve Cummings leaves BMC Racing to join South African team MTN-Qhubeka for 2015
Australian Matt Goss moves from Orica-GreenEdge to join African outfit MTN-Qhubeka
American sprinter Tyler Farrar leaves Garmin-Sharp after seven years to join South African outfit MTN-Qhubeka