Edvald Boasson Hagen, the Norwegian cyclist who’s most recently been pedaling for Team Sky, is now joining a South African team after opting against a Russian one. “I think it’s the right decision for me now,” Hagen told reporters after agreeing to sign on with MTN Qhubeka.
It’s a second-level team, meaning it needs invitations to ride in the big international races like Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana. But after four years of cycling for Sky as a helper for bigger stars on the team, Hagen is looking forward to having a prime spot on MTN. “For us, he’s really ‘the great,'” said Hagen’s new boss at MTN, Douglas Ryder.
The mild-mannered Hagen, from Rudsbygd outside Lillehammer, had also considered an approach from Pro Team Tinkoff Saxo of Denmark, controlled by the wealthy Russian businessman Oleg Tinkov and featuring top stars like Alberto Contador. “I realized that I would land in the same position there as I did with Sky,” Hagen told reporters on Wednesday when his move to MTN was confirmed. Mild-mannered or not, Hagen is willing to help other cyclists win but also wants to win himself.
His decision not to join Tinkoff Saxo reportedly upset Tinkov, who made his displeasure known on social media. “We may have sent the wrong signals,” Hagen’s manager Birger Hungerholdt conceded as Hagen was presented as a new member of MTN, “but we never signed any contract.” Hagen said he’s glad he’s going to MTN and not Tinkoff Saxo.
Now age 27, Hagen will join MTN as an established cyclist with some major victories to his credit, including two stages of the Tour de France in 2010. He claims he doesn’t view the move to MTN, with a two-year contract, as a step down from Sky.
“The project looked good and I look forward to next year,” Hagen said. “We want to ride in many of the best races in the world. I want to move forward and try something new.”