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The MTN Qhubeka team has confirmed the signing of a rider regarded as one of the biggest talents in the peloton, Edvald Boasson Hagen.
Although the Norwegian is 27 years of age, he is regarded as one who hasn’t yet neared his potential, with the powerful rider seen as having stagnated in the last two seasons of his five year deal with Team Sky.
Boasson Hagen was linked to a possible move to Tinkoff Saxo but, after signs of tension with its owner Oleg Tinkov, he has opted for the African squad.
MTN Qhubeka is a Pro Continental team rather than a WorldTour squad, but the move should see him one of the outright leaders and receive support in the biggest races.
“It´s been five great seasons with Team Sky, but the time has come to seek new challenges,” said Boasson Hagen on Wednesday. “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.”
He said that he weighed up the various possibilities and ultimately decided that the African outfit was the best choice. “I´ve had several options for the future, among them also World Tour teams. But after some consideration this is the team I most of all want to ride for in the future,” he explained.
“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 program, and I really look forward to focus on new goals in the MTN-Qhubeka jersey.”
Team Principal Doug Ryder knows that adding a rider of Boasson Hagen’s reputation and promise to the squad makes it more likely to secure the Tour invite it is chasing. The team already includes 2013 Milan-Sanremo winner Gerald Ciolek plus some very exciting young riders; with other high-profile signings expected, he can see the squad making a big move forward.
“We are really excited to welcome Edvald Boasson Hagen into Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung,” he said. “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. 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.”
Boasson Hagen turned pro with Team High Road in 2008, later HTC Columbia. He quickly got up to speed, winning the 2009 Gent Wevelgem, Eneco Tour and Tour of Britain races, taking a stage of the Giro d’Italia in the same year, netting two stages in the 2011 Tour de France, winning the Eneco Tour again in 2011 and also picking up the Vattenfall Cyclassics.
In 2012 he won the GP Ouest France and the Glava Tour of Norway, and successfully defended his title in the latter event last season.
However his career progression has faltered in the past two seasons, leading to the realisation that he needed a fresh start.
He said that in addition to chasing his own ambitions, he looked forward to sharing his experience with the African riders. Boasson Hagen added that the involvement of the Qhubeka charity in the squad was something he also wanted to be part of.
Ryder has been pushing hard for the team to evolve and recognises that the signing will help with that. He said that there is a general drive by all the riders to aim higher.
“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.”
Other signings are expected to be announced in the near future.