The MTN-Qhubeka rider, winner of the race in 2009 courtesy of four stage victories, was overtaken and beaten before the line at the summit of Hartside Fell on Wednesday by Sky’s Wouter Poels.
But he minimised his losses enough and bonus seconds of six, added to the four he collected in Blyth on Wednesday, are enough to give him a one second lead over the Dutchman, which if maintained would see him become the first ever double-winner of the modern race.
Boasson-Hagen, though, is not likely to instruct his MTN team-mates to take position at the front of the peloton for the duration of tomorrow’s stage from Stoke to Nottingham, the final stage where time gaps are likely to be forthcoming in the general classification.
Instead, it is in Sky’s hands to dispose him of the lead. “I tried to go as fast as possible [at the end of the stage] but I don’t know if one second is good or bad,” he said.
“It might be better for us as a team if he [Poels] had the jersey but still we work and try to keep it. I’m happy to have the jersey but tomorrow’s stage will be hard.
“They have been taking responsibility and they really want to win but they’ve already won a lot of stages [three] but they have to be careful to what they can do.
“I just have to follow and try to ride smart. I need to try and defend the jersey.”
The advantage for Boasson Hagen is that his sprinting capabilities can claim him bonus points, and if a fractured leading bunch is formed after the Peak District hills tomorrow, there are two sprints in the final 35km offering bonus seconds that the Norwegian could add to his lead.
The weekend’s final two sprint stages, too, could offer the Norwegian national champion an opportunity for more bonus seconds, something Poels is aware of.
Watch: Secrets of the Toolbox – MTN-Qhubeka
“Boasson Hagen is a really good sprinter so it’s going to be hard for me but tomorrow’s a hard stage,” Poels commented. “One second is not a lot but it can be enough.
“It would be nice if I could take time but he is in really good shape so it’s going to be a really close battle.”
“It’s going to be really close all the way to the end,” Boasson Hagen cautiously noted.
“I will fight as hard as possible but, still, there’s many hard stages to go and we will see day by day.
“It’s a better feeling to cross the line in first but now I wear the jersey, it doesn’t mean I’ve won it.”