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After a strong solo attack on the hardest climb of the race, Hansen managed to hold off Boasson Hagen on the descent to take his first professional victory on stage 3 of the Tour of Norway; he also takes the overall lead

Photo: Sirotti








22.05.2015 @ 18:39 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After a slow start to his professional career, Jesper Hansen (Tinkoff-Saxo) confirmed his huge climbing potential when he took his maiden pro win in the hardest stage of the Tour of Norway. Having made a strong solo attack on the category 1 climb with 21km to go, he held off a fast-approaching Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) on the descent to take both the stage win and overall lead.


When he turned professional, Jesper Hansen was described as a hugely promising climber but the first part of his career has been a tough one. The Dane has not been able to live up to his lofty promises and after he failed to deliver the goods in the Criterium International where he was given a leadership role, he faced some criticism from his management.


However, Hansen has refused to give up and he has gradually ridden himself into form. He already showed signs of improvement in the Tour de Romandie and this made him one to watch in the Tour of Norway. Today he finally opened his professional account when he beat local hero Edvald Boasson Hagen with a fantastic solo ride in the hardest stage of the race.


As they hit the main climb with 30km to go, a four-rider break with Sindre Lunke (Joker), Adrian Gjølberg (FixIT), Vegard Bugge (Sparebanken) and Ole Forfang (Ringeriks-Kraft) had an advantage of just 20 seconds. This prompted Lunke to make a big acceleration and his fast pace immediately spelled the end for Forfang and later Bugge also dropped off.


In the peloton, MTN-Qhubeka had hit the front with Hay Thomson who made lots riders suffer. Meanwhile, Gjølberg was distanced by Lunke and the three original escapees were all brought back, leaving just Lunke to press on.


Sean De Bie (Lotto Soudal) launched the first attack and he quickly bridged the gap to Lunke. Frank Schleck (Trek) also made it across and when a Joker rider also joined the move, Lunke was distanced.


Here Hansen made his first big surge and he brought it all back together. Schleck continued to ride on the front for a little while and this was enough to send Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEDGE) out the back door.


Krister Hagen (Sparebanken) launched a strong attack and he was joined by a Joker rider and Jan Hirt (CCC).  David Lopez (Sky) took over the pace-setting in the peloton before he sent Nordhaug across to the break.


That was too dangerous for MTN-Qhubeka who put Serge Pauwels on the front and with 28km to go, he brought the front group back. This was the moment for Boasson Hagen to play his first card and he was joined by Nordhaug and Andreas Vangstad (Sparebanken) to form a very strong group.


CCC took over the pace-setting with Hirt and he made group splinter. The Czech, Davide Rebellin (CCC) ad a Joker rider made it across to the leaders.


Hansen was again on the back foot but he managed to bring it back together. At this point, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) had been distanced and he was fighting hard with a couple of teammates further back.


Lopez used a small lull to take off and he quickly got a big gap. Further back, there was no cooperation and so Hansen had to accelerate again.


Only Ivan Santaromita (Orica-GreenEDGE), Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural), Gustav Larsson (Cult), Vangstad and Hirt could keep up with him and later Boasson Hagen also made it across. Santaromita made a brief attack but the group came back together while Nordhaug worked hard in a group further back.


Txurruka and Larsson launched a small attack but Boasson Hagen brought it back together while Kristoff fought his way back to the Nordhaug group. However, the going got too tough and he was distanced again.


Txurruka was dropped from the front group and with 23km to go, Hansen made his big attack to start start to approach the lone Lopez. Meanwhile, the chase group split as Boasson Hagen and Vangstad fell off the pace.


From there it was a big pursuit between those groups while the Nordhaug group was constantly splintering further back. With 21km to, Hansen finally made it across to Lopez and he quickly distanced the fading Spaniard.


At the top of the climb, Hansen had a 1-minute advantage over Lopez while Hirt, Santaromita and Larsson were next. Boasson Hagen and Vangstad were further back but the former used the tricky descent to move up. He quickly distanced Vangstand while Lopez was brought back by the chasing trio.


Larsson was the best descender and he made the group splinter. Santaromita was next followed by Lopez while Hirt fell back to Vangstand.


Boasson Hagen passed both Santaromita and Lopez and he managed to join Larsson before they reached the ascending final section. Further back, Lopez, Santaromita and Vangstad had joined forces while Hirt was with Nordhaug in a group further back.


Boasson Hagen distanced Larsson with 2km to go but he was still almost a minute behind Hansen. He made some inroads in the finale but ran out of metres and had to settle for second behind the talented Dane. Santaromita won the sprint for third after his group had caught Larsson while the Nordhaug group was caught by a bigger group with Kristoff just before the line.


With the win, Hansen takes the overall lead and he goes into tomorrow’s fourth stage with a 37-second over Boasson Hagen. It’s another tough day of climbing as the mostly flat course includes a category 1 climb in the first half before it all comes to an exciting end with a summit finish on a 2.3km climb that has an average gradient of 7.9%.


A tough day of climbing

After two stages for the sprinters, the GC battle was expected to start in stage 3 which brought the riders over 181.3km from Skien to Rjukan. After a completely flat first part, the riders tackled a small category 2 climb at the midpoint but it was the category 1 Gaustaråen climb that was expected to do the damage. With a length of 11.3km and an average gradient of 7%, it summited just 19km from the finish and from there it was a long descent before the riders got to the final 5km that were slightly ascending.


The riders had dry conditions when they headed out for their ride but they were expected to be greeted by snow and 3-degree temperatures when they got to the top of the main climb. As it has been the case in the previous stages, the stage got off to a very fast start with lots of attacks and after 15km of racing no one had managed to escape.


The break is formed

The elastic snapped when five riders attacked. Marcus Fåglum Karlsson (Tre Berg), Sindre Lunke (Joker), Adrian Gjølberg (FixIT), Ole Forfang (Ringeriks Kraft) and Vegard Robinson Bugge (Sparebanken) managed to build an advantage that quickly went out to 1.45.


The peloton showed no interest in bringing the break back and so the gap went out to a massive 8.50 before MTN-Qhubeka and Tinkoff-Saxo both put a rider on the front to start to bring the break back. Meanwhile, Forfang beat Lunke and Karlsson in the first intermediate sprint.


The gap comes down

At the 70km mark, the gap had been brought down to 7.30 and it was now Sky who had taken over the pace-setting. They upped the speed significantly and the gap was down to 6.10 after 88km of racing where Lunke beat Gjølberg and Forfang in the second intermediate sprint.


Tinkoff-Saxo again took over the pace-setting and when they reached the halfway point, they had brought the gap down to 5.40. A little later Gjølberg beat Bugge and Lunke in the first KOM sprint and here Karlsson was dropped from the break before being brought back with 37km to go.


A strong alliance

At the feed zone with 68km to go, the gap had gone down to only 3.30 and it was now a strong alliance by several teams that made it difficult for the escapees. Gert Steegmans (Trek), Nikolai Trussov (Tinkoff-Saxo), Nathan Earle (Sky) and Jay Thomason (MTN-Qhubeka) were working well together to gradually bring the gap down. With 62km to go, it was 3 minutes and 10km later it was only 2.30.


With 48km to go, Lars Petter Nordhaug (Sky) had to fight his way back from a puncture but he got back in time for Trek to take control. With 42km to go, the American team lined out their troops on the front and it was Yaroslav Popovych and Gregory Rast who set a fast pace that saw the gap come down quickly. With 35km to go, it was only 1.05 and as they hit the big climb with 30km to go, it was only 20 seconds, setting the scene for the exciting finale.



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