Team Sky will lead with Edvald Boasson Hagen for Milan-San Remo on Saturday despite his muscle injury.
“Looking at the team,” said Sky’s coach, Rod Ellingworth, “obviously, Edvald will be the main target.”
The 23-year-old won a stage at the Giro d’Italia and the Ghent Wevelgem one-day classic in 2008. He finished second overall at the Tour of Oman last month, but one week later, he hurt his calf muscle in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. It gave him more problems during Tirreno-Adriatico last week and forced him to abandon in Sunday’s stage.
“He’s just got a little bit of an issue, that’s why we pulled him, we didn’t want him to go too deep and have it be more of an issue,” added Ellingworth. “He had an issue with his shoe plate in Kuurne, he sort of got caught a bit in a crash, twisted the shoe plate…”
Boasson Hagen, regardless, finished eighth and helped Sky’s Chris Sutton win the race. The next day, after a training ride, he noticed the problem.
Ellingworth and the team, based near Milan until Saturday, will make a final assessment of Boasson Hagen’s condition today. Bradley Wiggins, Michael Rogers and Geraint Thomas will fly to Italy to join five riders from Sky’s Tirreno team: Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Thomas Löfkvist, Juan Antonio Flecha, Ian Stannard and Boasson Hagen.
HTC-Highroad’s Mark Cavendish had Boasson Hagen’s support when he won Milan-San Remo in 2009. After switching to Sky, Boasson Hagen raced the near 300-kilometre race again last year.
“He is definitely a bit better, I wouldn’t say he’s a lot better, but he’s certainly a bit better. Just his general understanding and moving himself forward,” Ellingworth said.
“A lot of younger guys always over-react, they think, ‘It’s a big race’ and they try to overcompensate. I think that’s all the feelings that Edvald’s going through. He feels fine though and certainly has great form.”
Boasson Hagen sprinted to third last year at the Tour de France twice, once behind Alessandro Petacchi and once behind Cavendish. Petacchi, Cavendish, Oscar Freire – all past winners – Thor Hushovd and Tyler Farrar are favourites for San Remo.
“It is definitely a race for Edvald, it’s perfect. If he arrives with some of the big sprinters, then he’s not going to win. If it is one of those days, he can hang on over the climbs more than a lot of other sprinters – we’ve seen that already.”
Milan-San Remo, 298 kilometres, ends along the Italian Riviera with the Cipressa and Poggio climbs. The top of the Poggio leaves 6.2 kilometres to race.
Spring Classics 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index