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Riding his own pace up the final climb, Hermans passed Taaramae just 200m from the finish to win the queen stage of the Arctic Race of Norway; the Belgian took the overall lead

Photo: A.S.O.








15.08.2015 @ 18:31 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Ben Hermans (BMC) confirmed his excellent condition and continued his breakthrough season when he took a beautiful solo win on the queen stage of the Arctic Race of Norway. The Belgian didn’t respond to the first attacks and rode his own pace up the final climb before passing Rein Taaramae (Astana) just 200m from the finish and take both the stage win and the overall lead.


Ben Hermans has always been regarded as a big talent but it had taken some time for the strong Belgian to confirm his potential at the highest level. In 2015, things have finally changed as he has had a marvelous year in the BMC jersey.


Hermans first showed his cards when he took a surprise solo win in the Brabantse Pijl and later he rode strongly to win the final stage of the Tour de Yorkshire. He was second in the Tour of Austria but it was his podium place in the WorldTour race Tour de Pologne just a few days ago that really marked him out as the favourite for this week’s Arctic Race of Norway.


Hermans fully lived up to his status as the man to beat as he managed to win the queen stage and move into the overall lead with a perfectly gauged effort on the final climb. With teammates Silvan Dillier and Dylan Teuns rounding out the top 5, it was a fantastic day for BMC in Norway.


The stage ended with a 3.7km climb that averaged 7.8% and was expected to suit the best climbers and be the most important for the GC. With 10km to go, the lone survivor from the early break, Haavard Blikra (Coop), was still dangling 10 seconds ahead of the peloton but it was just a question of time before he would be reeled in by the peloton in which there was a great fight for position. Joker had taken control and it was Reidar Borgersen who took some huge turns for the Norwegian team.


While Lampre-Merida moved up next to the Norwegian riders, with Mario Costa keeping Jose Serpa and Ilya Koshevoy positioned, Borgersen brought Blikra back when just 8km remained. Moments later, BMC too over the pace-setting with stagiaire Tom Bohli who took a short turn before Borgersen got back on the front.


Bohli took another short turn before Cofidis took control with 5.5km to go. Rayanne Bouhanni showed himself on the pro scene as he led the group past the 5km to go mark before Ramon Sinkeldam (Giant-Alpecin) took over.


The Dutchman swung off just 800m from the bottom of the climb where Adrien Petit took a turn for Cofidis. However, it was Max Wahlscheid (Giant-Alpecin) who led the group onto the climb.


Coop hit the front right from the bottom but they were quickly passed by Katusha. Sergey Lagutin and

Sven Erik Bystrøm set the pace until a Europcar rider made a short-lived attack.


The next to try was Christian Mager (Cult) and he continued to ride on the front until Davide Malacarne  took over for Astana. This was too much for Alexander Kristoff who cracked as Tanel Kangert took over for the Kazakh team.


Kangert, Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha), Jose Serpa (Lampre-Merida), Rein Taaramae (Astana), Teuns, Dillier, Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka), Mathias Frank (IAM) and a Ringeriks rider distanced the rest while the peloton splintered behind. Serpa was the first to crack while riders tried to bridge the gap.


With 2km to go, Taarame made his attack and only Zakarin managed to respond immediately. Teuns, Dillier and Frank took off in pursuit and they managed to join the two leaders while Boasson Hagen was suffering further back.


Taaramae tried again 1.6km from the finish and this time no one was able to respond. Frank took off in lone pursuit while Ben Hermans joined Dillier and Teuns to make it a BMC trio further back.


The three BMC riders caught Frank and they maintained a gap of around 10 seconds as they approached the flamme rouge. Zakarin managed to join them while Boasson Hagen was on his own a bit further back.


Taaramae rode strongly as he passed the red kite where the chase group splintered as Hermans was now going full gas. The Belgian started to reduce his deficit and with 300m to go, he was just a few metres behind.


Taaramae was fading and with 200m to go, Hermans joined him. He sprinted past the Estonian who had no response and had to settle for second behind the strong Belgian. Frank finished third while Dillier and Teuns made it three BMC riders in the top 5.


With the win, Hermans moves into the race lead with a 7-second advantage over Taaramae. However, nothing is guaranteed yet as the final stage is another tough affair. After a mostly flat day, the riders will end the stage by doing laps of a finishing circuit that includes a 2.3km climb with an average gradient of 6.6%. The climb will be tackled no four times, with the final passage coming just 5.5km from the finish. From there it is mainly downhill until the riders get to the slightly ascending final kilometre.


The queen stage

After two days for the sprinters, it was time for the queen stage which brought the riders over 183km from Finnsnes to a summit finish in Målselv. The first part was mainly flat with just three smaller climbs but it all came to an exciting conclusion on the 3.7km climb that averaged 7.8%.


It was another sunny day in Norway when the riders gathered for the start. All riders who finished yesterday’s stage were present as they rolled out for their neutral ride.


An early break

Already after 500m, the early break was formed when Christopher Williams (Novo Nordisk), Jon Breivold (Froy), Haavard Blikra (Coop), Marius Hafsas (FixIT) and the Sparebanken duo of Herman Dahl and Frdtjof Roinas managed to escape. The peloton showed no interest in bringing them and so the gap had gone out to a maximum of 7.00 after just 30km of racing. Meanwhile, Blikra beat Roinas and Hafsas in the first intermediate sprint.


Astana was the first team to show a desire to lead the chase as they put Daniil Fominykh and Maxat Ayabayev on the front. With 140km to go, they had brought it down to 6.20 and now Pirmin Lang started to work for IAM. Meanwhile, Blikra beat Roinas and Hafsas in the first KOM sprint.


IAM and Astana in control

Fominykh quickly ended his work and instead his teammate Arman Kamyshev started to trade pulls with Ayazbayev and Lang. Those three riders worked strongly to slowly bring the break back. With 120km to go, it was 4.40 and 10km later it was already down to 3.10. Here Blikra beat Roinas and Dahl in the second KOM sprint.


The situation stabilized a bit and so the gap was still 3.10 as they entered the final 100m. The gap even went out to 3.55 again before Williams beat Roinas and Blikra in the second intermediate sprint.


BMC come to the fore

The gap hovered between the 3- and 4-minute marks for around fifty kilometres and even went out to mre than four minutes with 57km to go. That was the signal for BMC to kick into action as Bohli started to work with Lang and the two Astana riders.


This had a big effect on the gap which was 3.15 with 47km to go and 2.20 just 10km later. With 30km to go, the attacking started in the front group where Breivold made a small attack but they again started to cooperate.


The front group splits up

With 25km to go, their advantage was only 1.25 and this was the signal for Dahl to attack. He managed to win the final sprint ahead of Williams and Hafsas before the latter joined forces with Blikra and Roinas to make it back to the lone leader.


The gap was only 1.00 when the front quartet entered the final 10km and they only had 45 seconds in hand with 15km to go. Lang, Bohli and the two Kazakhs were still chasing hard and so the pace was upped in the front group. Breivold was dropped before Blikra took off and he managed to get to the 8km to go mark before he was back in the fold and the finale unfolded.



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