One hour, nine minutes and five seconds after Sepp Kuss became the first American in 10 years to win a stage of the Tour de France, Norwegian legend Edvald Boasson Hagen crossed the finish line in Andorra la Vella just ahead of the broom wagon. For the first time in his 11 Tours, he had finished outside the time limit. The only other time he did not complete a Tour was in 2013, when he was riding for Team Sky; he crashed on stage 12 in a mass pileup, fracturing his shoulder blade.
Boasson Hagen is a celebrity sportsman in Norway. When he married Marlen Kristiansen, an airline captain for Norwegian Air Shuttle, in Oslo in January 2018, the guests included a world champion (Mark Cavendish) and a Tour winner (Geraint Thomas). The birth of their first child, Hennie, a few weeks before the start of this year’s Tour, was a hit on social media.
In his 16-year pro career, Boasson Hagen has won 81 races, making him a super-star athlete in the Norwegian media. His palmarès is highlighted by wins at Ghent–Wevelgem and a Giro stage in 2009, and two Tour de France stages in 2011. When, six years later, he took a third Tour stage win at Salon-de-Provence after breaking clear from a big breakaway group, his national TV commentators went crazy. They jubilantly greeted his victory, high-fiving and screaming, “Eddy, Eddy, Eddy! Eddy is back!”
But since that victory in 2017, Boasson Hagen has had just one more win at the WorldTour level; that was at the Critérium du Dauphiné in June 2019 when he won the opening stage field sprint ahead of Philippe Gilbert and Wout Van Aert. The Norwegian came close to his fourth Tour stage win last year when he was a close second to Van Aert on the wind-affected stage 7 to Lavaur. But it wasn’t a good season, and when the sponsors of his NTT team withdrew last winter, Boasson Hagen signed with the French team, Total DirectÉnergies, in a one-year deal.
It hasn’t been a great year so far. His best finish in his favored spring classics was 73rd at the Scheldeprijs; and after a training camp in May, he crashed in his first race back, sustaining abrasions that prevented him starting the Tour de Suisse. So, his only race before the Tour was the Norway national road championship—his 36th place was a far cry from the 13 national titles he has earned over the years (three in the road race, 10 in the time trial).
At this Tour de France, he had no top 20s in the sprint finishes and came in with the gruppetto in the opening mountain stages. His best performance was on stage 12, when he got into the day’s big breakaway after surviving the severe crosswinds in the early kilometers. “It was a big battle to be in the day’s breakaway,” he reported. “Once there, we were full gas the whole stage. I’m happy to have been at the front all day. Sadly, I didn’t have the strength to follow the attacks. I’m still motivated, and I’ll do everything to try again.” From the 13-man break, he was 12th across the line in Nîmes.
That effort resulted the next day in his finishing at the back of the 75-man peloton into Carcassonne; and he arrived in a small group behind the gruppetto on stage 15. Then came the tough Pyrenean stage to Andorra. He was dropped on the first climb and bravely rode the remaining 110 kilometers solo over three mountain passes, arriving more than a half-hour behind the last official finisher, his old friend Cavendish. “The Tour is brutal,” Boasson Hagen wrote on Instagram. “Today was a bad day to have a bad day. The heat, mountains and altitude wasn’t a good combo for me. I’m sad to leave my friends at Team TotalÉnergies….”
At age 34, the Norwegian legend’s career is likely coming to a close. After returning home to be with his wife and new baby, his season will continue in late August with the Bretagne Classic (which he won in 2012), followed in October by his favorite classic; as he said earlier this year: “My dream is to win Paris–Roubaix.” Now that would be a great way to end a wonderful career!
The Tour’s Lost Boys
In the first week 19 riders dropped out; another 20 left the race by the second rest day, making a total of 39 abandons (see “Into the Third Week: Another 20 Lost Boys”). Stage 17 saw one more rider drop out, Steven Kruijswijk of Jumbo-Visma, who started feeling ill on the second rest day, was dropped early in the stage and climbed off. So, the Tour’s 184-strong starting field has been reduced to 144.