Marco Haller (Katusha) managed to turn things around and make it two in a row for Katusha in the Tour des Fjords on the final stage as he took the overall victory with a great attack in the finale. Having joined forces with teammate Sven Erik Bystrøm, Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) and Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE) on the final climb, he held off the peloton and while Boasson Hagen sprinted to the stage win, he rolled across the line in third to move into first in the GC.
Last year Alexander Kristoff won the Tour des Fjords and after the local hero had won the first three stages of the 2015 edition of his home race, everything seemed to be on track for another win for the Norwegian.
In the end, Katusha managed to defend their title but after two dramatic final stages, things were completely turned around and it was his teammate Marco Haller who found himself in yellow at the end of today’s final stage. Already yesterday he had taken over team leadership when Kristoff missed the key move and so the Austrian was the protected rider in today’s stage.
The stage also marked a great comeback for Edvald Boasson Hagen who missed out on most of the spring classics after he broke his collarbone in Gent-Wevelgem. Having returned to racing less than two weeks ago, the Norwegian has already found back to his winning ways as he emerged as the strongest in today’s stage.
The key move was made on the final climb with 10km when the early break were caught. Boasson Hagen came flying past the leaders and was followed by Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE).
As they crested the summit Marco Haller and Sven Erik Bystrøm (Katusha) joined them and the quartet immediately stated to cooperate. Further back a 10-rider group with the likes of overall leader Søren Kragh Andersen, Alexander Kristoff, Sam Oomen, Marco Marcato, Rasmus Guldhammer, Jasper Stuyven and Michael Valgren had formed and Kragh was now forced on the defensive.
More riders rejoined the main group, including one of Kragh’s teammates who started to chase hard behind the leaders. However, he didn’t get any help from the rest of the group and so the front group extended their advantage.
Finally Topsport lend a hand to Kragh when Preben van Hecke hit the front but they were still not getting any closer to the front group which was 13 seconds ahead with 4km to go. Michael Olsson (Trefor) suddenly emerged from the back of the group to start to chase but the gap had not come down at all when they entered the final 3km.
The gap went out to 20 seconds behind Caja Rural hit the front with two riders. Later Ametx Txurruka took over for the Spanish team but they were not getting any closer to the leaders.
Fabian Cancellara, Stijn Devolder and Stuyven hit the front for Trek but it was all too late. The front quartet still had a big gap when they passed the flamme rouge.
Here Bystrøm sacrificed himself completely for Haller and he rode strongly on the front until the Austrian launched his sprint with 200m to go. He was quickly passed by both Impey and Boasson Hagen and it was the latter who took what looked like an easy win. A few seconds later Stuyven won the sprint for fifth.
Haller only finished third but with the time gap and bonus seconds he took the overall victory in the Norwegian race – his first ever GC win in a stage race. Kragh Andersen had to settle for second 12 second behind while Michael Olsson made it two Trefor riders on the podium
Alexander Kristoff of course won the points competition while Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) was the best climber. Haller also won the young rider’s competition while Caja Rural was the best team.
With the Tour des Fjords done and dusted, the spring of major Norwegian races is over. The big names from the international peloton will continue to the Scandinavian country in August when the Arctic Race of Norway takes place.
A difficult finale
After yesterday’s dramatic turnaround, things were expected to be a bit calmer in the final stage of the Tour des Fjords which brought the riders over 178.4km from Hinna Park to Stavanger. After a tough start with a non-categorized and categorized climb, the riders hit flat roads for most of the day. In the end, they did two laps of a 21.3km finishing circuit which included the steep Sørmarkbakken climb at the midpoint.
For the second day in a row, it was a dry start to the stage when the riders gathered in Hinna Park for the final ride in the Norwegian race. As usual, it was a fast opening phase with lots of attacks and it took time for the early break to be formed.
Bonus seconds for Haller
Pawel Bernas (ActiveJet) was the first to get clear and he managed to build an advantage of 15 seconds before Sander Helven (Topsport) and Taco van der Hoorn (De Rijke) joined him. Michell Cornellisse (Rabobank), Torstein Stokkenes (FixIT) and Sebastian Balck (Tre Berg) took off in pursuit but as Katusha wanted to do the first intermediate sprint, it was quickly brought back together.
It was mission accomplished for Katusha as Marco Haller won the sprint ahead of overall leader Kragh and his teammate Kristoff. As the group slowed down, the attacking could start again and it was Jeroen Meijers (Rabobank) who made the first move.
Lots of attacks
The Dutchman was brought back and so the attacking continued. Tinkoff-Saxo were very active while GC contender Mads Pedersen (Cult) had to work hard to rejoin the peloton after a puncture.
Danny van Poppel (Trek) got a small advantage but he was brought back before they hit the first big climb. Here several riders got dropped.
A strong group gets clear
Sam Oomen (Rabobank) and Christian Meier (Orica) attacked and managed to build an advantage of 16 seconds while lots of riders were losing contact with the peloton. Simon Spilak (Katusha), van Poppel, Rasmus Quaade (Cult), Jay Thomson (MTN-Qhubeka), Helven, Reinier Honig (Roompot), Bernas and Audun Brekke Fløtten (Ringeriks) managed to bridge the gap to make it a strong 10-rider group.
Tinkoff-Saxo had missed the move and so they were chasing hard. As they hit the first categorized climb, they brought it back together before Etienne van Empel (Roompot) beat Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural), Meier and Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE) in the KOM sprint.
The break is formed
Pieter Jacobs (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Wouter Mol (De Rijke) launched the next and after a short chase, Quaade, van Empel and Fløtten made it across to them. Filiip Eidsheims (FixIT) also tried to bridge the gap while the peloton finally slowed down to take a natural break.
Eidsheim got to within 8 seconds of the front group but as they didn’t wait for him, he gave up and dropped back to the peloton which was already 2 minutes behind. When Quaade beat Mol and van Empel in the second intermediate sprint, they had an advantage of 3.25.
The gap went out to 5.40 with 90km to go but at this point things got hectic in the peloton when they hit a crosswinds section. Orica-GreenEDGE and MTN-Qhubeka launched a big attack in the tough conditions and suddenly a small 15-rider group had formed.
Overall leader Kragh and the main contenders had all made the split and so the two teams stopped their attack. A regrouping took place but the faster pace had brought the gap down to 4.30.
The chase gets organized
The peloton slowed completely down and as no one took any initiative, the gap went out to 6.15 with 75km to go. This was the signal for the Joker team to take control and they got some assistance from Dmitry Kozontchuk (Katusha).
Those two teams gradually brought the gap down and as they passed the 55km to go mark, it was only 5.30. At this point, MTN-Qhubeka and Orica-GreenEDGE also started to work and it was Magnus Cort who took some huge turns for the Australian team.
Tuft does a huge work
Van Poppel also started to work for Trek and so it was no surprise that the gap was now coming down fast. With 30km to go, it was only 3.20 after Svein Tuft had come to the fore for Orica-GreenEDGE
As they entered the final 30km, Joker hit the front with their entire team and with time trial specialists Reidar Børgersen working with Tuft, it made a big difference. As they went up the climb on the finishing circuit for the first time, the advantage was less than 2 minutes.
The break is caught
Here van Empel and Jacobs made an attack to take the two first positions in the KOM sprint while Mol, Fløtten and Quaade followed a little later. Tuft set the pace all the way up the ascent in the peloton.
The front group came back together on the descent while Tuft and Simon Spilak (Katusha) worked in the peloton. At the start of the final 20km lap, the gap was only 1.10.
Tuft and Spilak were taking some huge turns and as they got to the climb for the final time, the escapees were almost caught. Mol and Jacobs tried to attack but they were quickly passed by Boasson Hagen who launched the race-winning move.
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