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After making it into a 14-rider group on the final climb, Kristoff and Mørkøv made it a 1-2 for Katusha on the final stage of the Tours des Fjords; Kristoff took the overall win ahead of Schär and van der Lijke

Photo: Einar Oliver Landa

ALEXANDER KRISTOFF

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KATUSHA ALPECIN

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KRISTOFFER HALVORSEN

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MICHAEL MØRKØV

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MICHAEL SCHÄR

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NICK VAN DER LIJKE

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TOUR DES FJORDS

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04.09.2016 @ 18:43 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) finished off a dominant performance at the Tour des Fjords in the perfect fashion as he won his home stage to Stavanger on the final day. Having made it into a 14-rider group on the final climb, he was given an excellent lead-out by Michael Mørkøv and the pair made it a 1-2 for Katusha, with Kristoff Halvorsen (Joker) taking third. Kristoff took the overall win for the second time with a 30-second advantage over Michael Schär (BMC) and Nick van der Lijke (Roompot).

 

Going into the Tour des Fjords, Alexander Kristoff was always going to be the man to beat. The Norwegian already won his home race in 2014 and with a lumpy course made up of stages for strong sprinter, he had his eyes on overall victory.

 

Things got off to a bad start when he almost lost it all on the first day where the peloton was led the wrong way. However, the organizers neutralized the time gaps and after having overcome the frustration, Kristoff has been a class of his own.

 

After winning the sprint on stage 2, Kristoff proved that he was the strongest rider in the race when he bridged a two-minute gap late in stage 3 and from there the outcome was never in doubt. Yesterday he stayed with the best on the climb that was his undoing in last year’s race and today he finished it off in the perfect way by winning the tough final stage that had also been a bit too hard for him 12 months ago.

 

After yesterday’s tough stage, the riders faced a very similar stage on the final day where they tackled 165.8km from Hinna Park to the big finish in Stavanger. There was an early climb after 16.9km of racing but from there the riders travelled along mainly flat roads to the finishing city while contesting the intermediate sprints at the 31.2km, 69.1km and 109.1km marks. With 49.1km to go, they hit the 18.8km finishing circuit which included the steep 1100m climb of Sørmarksbakken just 8.7km from the finish. The riders did almost a full lap before they get to the finish for the first time and as they did two laps in the end, they tackled the climb a total of three times. The final 3km were flat and very technical with numerous turns in the final kilometre.

 

The riders had unusually sunny conditions when they gathered for the start and like in the previous stages, it was a fast beginning. Sparebanken attacked right from the drop of the flag before Ken Levi Eikeland (FixIT) managed to get an advantage. However, he was soon brought back.

 

Six riders with representation from most of the local continental teams then surged clear before Carl Fredrik Hagen (Sparebanken) made a failed attack. Next a rider from Rabobank and one from Blitz escaped and they were joined by Hagen and one from FixIT before things again came back together.

 

The next attack was the right one as Vegard Breen (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Brad Evans (Drapac Pro Cycling), Audun Brekke Flotten (Ringeriks-Kraft), Kasper Asgreen (Vital Pro Veloconcept) og Carl Fredrik Hagen (Sparebanken Sør) quickly got a solid advantage. Karel Hnik (Verva) and Asmund Lovik (FixIt) gave chase and were stuck 20 seconds behind while the peloton sat up.

 

Evans won the first KOM sprint ahead of Hagen, Asgreen and Flotten while the peloton arrived 2.38 later. The chasers were sill 38 seconds behind but finally managed the junction when the front group eased off.

 

Evans beat Løvik and Breen in the intermediate sprint but there was no real fight for the points as they worked well together to increase their advantage to 3.40 with 120km to go. Nikoai Tefre Lunder (Blitz-Merida) was in lone pursuit but he never made the junction and finally sat up.

 

Katusha took control in the peloton as they put Dmitry Kozontchuk and Anton Vorobyev on the front and they brought the gap down to less than three minutes. The gap stabilized when Evans beat Løvik and Hagen in the second intermediate sprint.

 

Joker came to the fore to lend Katusha a hand and for a long time, Kozontchuk, Vorobyev and Trul Korsæth shared the workload. With 85km to go, the gap was down to 2.30 but the escapees responded well to push it out to 3.30 when they hit the final 65km.

 

The three hard-working domestiques increased the pace and when Evans beat Breen and Løvik in the final sprint after the Fortuneo rider had gone from afar, the gap was less than 2 minutes. With 50km to go, it was only 50 secconds.

 

As they hit the final climb for the first time, Hagen upped the pace in the break and this was too much for Evans, Løvik and Flotten who were left behind. At the top, the four leaders had a gap of 1.03 over the peloton which was now led by Kozontchuk and Michael Mørkøv for Katusha.

 

The front group came back together on the descent and crossed the finish line with an advantage of 35 seconds. Breen briefly tried to attack but he couldn’t get clear. Meanwhile, Joker were chasing hard in the peloton, with Reidar Borgersen doing most of the work.

 

Breen finally managed to get rid of his companions and there were also attacks in the peloton when Remy Di Gregorio (Delko) and Adrian Gjølberg (FixIT) got a small advantage. They passed the big chase group but were still 50 seconds behind Breen.

 

As they hit the climb, Di Gregorio sat up while Gjølberg tried to stay clear. The peloton took it rather easy on the ascent and reached the top 50 seconds behind Breen. Gjølberg was at 30 seconds.

 

Gjølberg was brought back and instead a Delko rider made a failed attack. However, Katusha took control and led the peloton across the line to start final lap 38 seconds behind the leader.

 

As they approached the climb, Alexander Porsev (Katusha) and Borgersen (Joker) set the pace and finally brought Breen back with 11km to go. The fight for position intensified and after BMC had first moved up, it was Stölting that took control.

 

Mads Pedersen took a huge turn and as soon as they hit the climb, his teammate Christian Mager attacked. However, Michael Mørkøv stayed glued to his wheel for Katusha and as they crested the summit, a small 14-rider group had been created, with Kristoff and Michael Schär sitting in the front end of the group.

 

Damiano Caruso went straight to the front to work for Schär and even though he didn’t get any help, he managed to increase the gap to the chasers. As he finished the descent, Joker also started to work with Bjørn Tore Hoem and Roompot came to the fore with Huub Duijn. The next group was already 25 seconds behind

 

Caruso hit the front as they entered the final 3km and then Hoem again took over. The young Norwegian took a massive turn and made sure that the group stayed away and also neutralized a move from a Verva rider.

 

In the final kilometre, it was a huge mess as everybody was battling for position but it was finally Mørkøv who came to the front with Kristoff on his wheel. When the Norwegian hit out, the outcome was never in doubt and he had plenty of time to celebrate his win. Mørvøv even managed to hold off Kristoffer Halvorsen to make it a 1-2 for Katusha.

 

With the win, Kristoff also took the overall victory with a 30-second advantage over Michael Schär and Nick van der Lijke. The Norwegian also won the points competition while Hagen was the best climber. Van der Lijke was the best young rider and Roompot were the best team.

 

With the Tour des Fjords done and dusted, the Scandinavian season has come to an end. It all starts again next year in May when the riders gather for the Tour of Norway.

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