Edvald Boasson Hagen finds love in Africa.
While Sky teammates once called Edvald Boasson Hagen “Eddy Junior” in respect for his Merckxian potential, the shy Norwegian was never by any stretch of the imagination the next Cannibal.
Edvald is a polite and sweet guy, not a stone cold killer on the bike like Mr. Merckx. The Belgian needed nothing except his bike and his insatiable hunger to win.
By contrast, what Edvald Boasson Hagen needs is what he could find amount all of Sky’s sports science and metrics and performance graphs and marginal gains and Inner Chimps.
Edvald was crushed by the weight of expectation at Sky, the constant measuring and optimization and physiological dissection and clinical scrutiny. He felt like some sort of performance guinea pig. He was intimidated by the whole Sky machine. It wasn’t a nurturing environment, it was a business that wouldn’t let him breathe.
That’s not to say that SKy didn’t show plenty of patience with Edvald but it was their brand of patience. Like the obsessive parent with high expectations who insists the daughter get straight A’s. Then when the daughter cracks, the parent says “ohh, honey, it’s okay, I understand your feelings …. but what are you gonna do to get straight A’s again.”
Edvald needs love and Sky was cold.
So he was willing to take a pay cut just to warm ump signing a two-year contract with continental team MTN-Qhubeka for an estimated one million Euros — less than his Sky paycheck.
In his signing statement, EBH said all the right things about great time at Sky, new challenges, good race program, MTN Qhubeka aiming for Tour invite, etc etc. Nice, classy but not very revealing except for two things.
First, this interesting choice of word: “So I feel safe about the race program.” Safety feels like a revealing insight into his overall experience at Sky. He became uncomfortable, insecure and unsure of his place. Not enough love from Sir David Brailsford and Sky.
Second, Boasson-Hagen wants some heart and soul in what he does. “The other thing I really enjoy is this team does not just race for themselves but for a charity.” The Norwegian has found a safe harbor at the South African squad and also wants to spread the love around. (Compassion was perhaps an undervalued metric at Sky, unless you consider how good Sky was about Richie Porte’s season-long illness.)
David Brailsford has made it an official Sky policy that all human emotion be removed from decision making. You can’t argue with excellent outcomes and two Tour de France wins in three years is a powerful argument for the approach.
However, in the case of Boassen-Hagen and another talented but emotionally fragile rider like Bradley Wiggins, the corporate coldness hasn’t been as constructive.
So Edvald is off to Africa for warmer conditions. “MTN-Qhubeka has a very good platform and a framework that fits me very well, so I’m sure this is a very good choice for the next seasons.”
In other words, Edvald got his love.