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Boasson Hagen wins as Sky come of age on Tour

Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen claimed his maiden Tour de France win when he powered to victory on Thursday...

Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen celebrates on the finish line as he wins the 2011 Tour de France. Picture: AFP

Norway's Edvald

Boasson Hagen claimed his maiden Tour de France win when he powered to

victory on Thursday as Team Sky blossomed on the big stage.

Boasson Hagen benefited from

good work by in-form team mate Geraint Thomas to outsprint Australian

Matt Goss at the end of the sixth stage, a 226.5-km effort from Dinan,

giving Team Sky their first Tour win.

Launched

in 2010 with big money and high ambitions, Sky were brought back to

earth in last year's Tour as they failed to win a stage and with Bradley

Wiggins having to settle for 24th overall.

They

now have a stage win, while Wiggins came to the Tour after victory in

the Criterium du Dauphine and Welsh prodigy Thomas is wearing the white

jersey for the best young rider.

"The

team bus nearly turned over we were jumping up and down and shouting so

much," Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford told reporters after Boasson

Hagen's victory.

"I've been

criticised for my ambition and for saying that I believed we could come

here and win stages. But I honestly believed it and the proof will be in

the riding.

"It's a huge moment

for the team and its development. We're not even a year-and-a-half old

and we've won a stage in the Tour de France so from our point of view

I'm delighted."

Sports director Sean Yates said the win took some pressure off and he hoped there was more to come.

"It's

not the icing on the cake. It's the under layer. We now hope to perform

well for GC (general classification)," he told Reuters.

Yates

also praised Thomas's performance, saying: "He is the undisputed

lead-out man in the peloton. You ask him to be somewhere and he is

there."

Brailsford added that it was exciting for British cycling.

"It doesn't matter how good your planning or your set-up is, it's all about momentum, energy and confidence," he said.

"It's

perfect for Brad. It takes the pressure off the team and we can now

focus on getting down to the mountains unscathed and plotting the GC

campaign."

LEIPHEIMER CRASHES

The

softly spoken Boasson Hagen, whose career has been hampered by

injuries, was just too strong for the rest of the field on Thursday,

winning by a bike's length to raise his arms in celebration.

Norwegian Thor Hushovd retained the overall leader's yellow jersey after coming third.

Three-times

champion Alberto Contador, who changed bikes twice with some 30

kilometres left, was spotted a few yards ahead of the pack in the short

but demanding climb in the closing stages.

His legs probably stiff from a day in the rain, the Spaniard was reeled in and said he did not try to attack his rivals.

"I

was not well placed in the bunch and I was trying to get back to the

front. I found myself in front of the group but it was not my intention

to attack," he said.

"But I feel like the legs are doing good."

All

the favourites made it to the line in the same time as the day's winner

except American Levi Leipheimer, who crashed with five kilometres to go

as he slipped on a white line on the road side.

The

Radioshack rider crossed the line over a minute behind Hushovd in

another bad day for the American outfit, who lost the services of

Slovenian Janez Brajkovic on Wednesday following a crash.

Briton

Mark Cavendish, who was gunning for a 17th Tour stage victory, took

sixth place in the intermediate sprint behind the breakaway riders to

stay in contention for the green jersey.

The

Manxman could not sustain the pace in the ascent as the peloton rode in

driving rain and through occasional hailstorms from Brittany to

Normandy.

Timeline

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