If the first stage of this year’s Tour de France was all about who would win the yellow jersey, Edvald Boasson Hagen’s ripped Norwegian champion’s jersey tells a different tale. Yes, there were crashes, we have come to expect crashes during the nervous opening days of the Tour, especially in windy regions like La Manche. A ripped jersey is a reminder of the narrow line between heroism and very real and very painful suffering. A rider in a ripped jersey is exposed – physically and metaphorically. Tour de France riders may seem superhuman, but in an argument the asphalt always wins.
Boasson Hagen was one of four Dimension Data riders who escorted Mark Cavendish to the front of the peloton in the closing kilometres. This was not the bombastic lead-out train that Cavendish enjoyed in his HTC-Colombia days. This was a clever use of resources, letting Etixx-Quickstep and Lotto-Soudal make the running, then slotting the 31-year old Briton into the perfect place to launch his sprint.
In recent years Cavendish has been challenged in his sprint supremacy by Kittel, Greipel and others, and it would have been easy for him to slip into the role of road captain. But he has faith in himself. He knows he still has the qualities of a winner. And after a turbulent period at Etixx-Quickstep, he has found in Dimension Data a team that have faith in him. When a group of riders ride themselves into ground for their leader, protecting him from the wind, bringing him bottles and food and clothing, then threading through a peloton at 60 km/h, they are expressing their faith in his abilities. Cavendish, in turn, has faith in his team-mates to do the job.
Boasson Hagen was one of the architects of this monumental day for Cavendish, his first yellow jersey. It’s a pity he never got to see his man cross the line with arms aloft. 500 metres from the finish, Boassen-Hagen was lying on the road.
Photo by Marshall Kappel