Norwegian cycling is doing well during the day. Per Strand Hagenes is one of those who impresses.
No Norwegian rider had become a junior world champion from a joint start in road cycling.
Then Per Strand Hagenes parked the competitors on the penultimate hill, just before the finish during Friday’s race in Flanders. The 18-year-old from Sandnes could remember Thor Hushovd where he ran away with his explosive muscles, but in the end he had done something that the Grimstad cycling hero never accomplished:
He was a junior world champion in road cycling.
Those who know the sport best believe that Hagenes has a great future ahead of him.
In the accompanying car, behind the world champion, sat the leader of the national team, Kai Lexberg. He was nervous, but could feel the relief when he saw Hagenes glued to the ground five kilometers before the finish. It was exactly as they had planned the night before.
In addition to cycling, Hagenes has been one of Norway’s great cross country talents for many years. It has given it great versatility.
– It is extremely strong, physically robust and has a great engine. He also has a winning skull and is smart when he manages to imagine where he will put the shots, Lexberg says.
Earlier this year, 24-year-old Tobias Foss put on one of the best Norwegian cycling performances of all time when he finished ninth overall at the Giro d’Italia. He thinks victory says a lot about how good Hagenes can be.
– This is an incredibly good confirmation for him. No other Norwegian has done it before. I am very happy on his behalf, says Foss.
– A unique opportunity
The two of you can see each other a lot. Hagenes recently signed on to the Jumbo-Visma development team. Foss races for the World Tour team. The latter believes that the transition suits the newly crowned world champion.
According to Foss, the road is short from the development team to the World Tour team. Younger riders who are associated with Jumbo-Visma often get the chance early. Foss estimates that he and Hagenes will bike together for the next two years.
– In terms of development, they want you to know the early level and know how the team works. You have a unique opportunity, says Foss.
Winning the world junior championship is a given, but it is only now that the work begins in earnest for Hagenes. National team leader Lexberg is still not afraid to say that the 18-year-old may be one of the really greats.
– I think it can be very good. He has to deal with the pressure, but he has a lot of good people around him, as I can see. Now he is the junior world champion, and I think he can win the World Cup several times, both at the under-23 and professional level.
And while Thor Hushovd never accomplished what Hagenes did on Friday, he accomplished something even greater: becoming a senior world champion.
– As I have told NRK and TV 2 before: the only time I saw a Norwegian cyclist on a bike like Per at such a young age, it was Thor when he swept the worst. We know how it ended, says Lexberg.
So the future will show how far Per Strand Hagenes goes.