x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Descent no bother for Sky rider

Edvald Boasson Hagen gave Thomas Voeckler a lesson in descending to secure his and Team Sky's second stage win of the Tour de France.

PINEROLO, Italy // Edvald Boasson Hagen yesterday gave Thomas Voeckler a lesson in descending to secure his and Team Sky's second stage win of the Tour de France.

Having done his homework on Team Sky's reconnaissance in mid-June, the 24 year old from Lillehammer in Norway mastered the precarious final run-in to Pinerolo as the Tour travelled into Italy to win the 179-kilometre 17th stage from Gap.

Voeckler, though, saw his lead in the yellow jersey cut to one minute 18 seconds ahead of today's return to France, when Col du Galibier takes centre stage on arguably the hardest day in the Alps, losing crucial seconds after a wayward descent which saw him at one point lose control and go off into a roadside driveway.

As Voeckler was wobbling behind him, Boasson Hagen made amends for his second place to compatriot Thor Hushovd (Garmin) on Tuesday with a second Tour stage win.

But unlike his victory on stage six to Lisieux, when Geraint Thomas played a key role in the sprint lead out, Boasson Hagen claimed a deserved solo success after watching the final stages on video on the team bus yesterday morning.

The Norwegian was unfazed by the final 8km ride from the summit of the Cote de Pramartino labelled "fatally dangerous" by the two-time Tour runner-up Andy Schleck before the stage.

Boasson Hagen, who indulges more in cross-country skiing than downhill during the winter, said: "I wasn't afraid of the descent because I've done it in training and watched it on video.

"I knew almost every corner and I was just looking forward to the finish.

"It was quite technical and I didn't find it dangerous when I was alone. I didn't find it too hard."

Boasson Hagen attacked on the day's final climb, with 11km remaining, following a burst from Sylvain Chavanel before overtaking the QuickStep rider and going alone.

He reached the summit of the category two, 6.7km climb with an advantage of fewer than 20 seconds, but by the finish he had established a 40-second winning margin over Bauke Mollema (Rabobank), with Sandy Casar (FDJ) taking third place 10 seconds further adrift, ahead of fellow Frenchmen Julien El Fares (Cofidis) and Chavanel.

Boasson Hagen said: "It was a really great feeling to go up the climb alone. Nobody followed me and I knew almost every corner and I could just time trial to the finish."

A prodigious talent and much-sought after when he signed for Team Sky in 2009, his lead up to his debut Tour 12 months ago was hampered by an Achilles injury, while he had a bout of shingles at the end of June.

But Boasson Hagen has now delivered on his potential.

There are two Norwegians in the peloton and each have now won twice - Boasson Hagen emulating the earlier successes of Hushovd, the world champion.

He added: "I was so close yesterday [Tuesday] and I really wanted to get revenge and try to win today.

"I was really strong. I'm really happy today and Thor and I have had a great Tour - it's really nice."

As Boasson Hagen fearlessly negotiated the final downhill, the general classification standings concertinaed as a result of Voeckler's mishap.

After a minor blip near the top of the descent, Voeckler replicated the line breakaway rider Jonathan Hivert had followed moments earlier, losing control and having to hop onto a paved driveway.

Voeckler said: "Three times I went wide on a corner and the third time I was very, very lucky because I had to jump down a step that was about a metre high.

"I lost time and if I'd been more calm, I could have finished with the favourites, but I was a little bit too ambitious. I lost time when I shouldn't have."

Cadel Evans, Frank and Andy Schleck, Samuel Sanchez and Alberto Contador all finished 4:26 behind Boasson Hagen and 27 seconds ahead of Voeckler.

Evans now lies second, 1:18 behind Voeckler, Frank Schleck is third, 1:22 adrift, with Andy Schleck 2:36 behind in fourth, Sanchez 2:59 adrift in fifth and Contador, the defending champion, 3:15 behind in sixth.

* Press Association