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In a tough uphill sprint, Kristoff anticipated big favourite Kittel to slightly box the German in and held off Hushovd and Theuns to win the second stage of the Arctic Race of Norway

Photo: Sirotti

ALEXANDER KRISTOFF

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ARCTIC RACE OF NORWAY

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KATUSHA ALPECIN

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LARS PETTER NORDHAUG

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TEAM JUMBO-VISMA

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THOR HUSHOVD

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15.08.2014 @ 18:50 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) got his revenge over Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) when he took a convincing victory in the second stage of the Arctic Race of Norway which came down to tough uphill sprint. The Norwegian anticipated Kittel’s sprint and slightly boxed the favourite in before holding off Thor Hushovd (BMC), Edward Theuns (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Kittel to take his first win since the Tour de France.

 

A little less than a month ago, Alexander Kristoff was narrowly beaten by Marcel Kittel in the sprint on the Champs-Elysees in the Tour de France. The Norwegian had done nothing to hide his ambition to get his revenge in this week’s Arctic Race of Norway and he made use of the only real sprint stage to take it.

 

Kristoff negotiated the uphill sprint perfectly as he latched onto the wheel of Thor Hushovd who was riding just behind Kittel. The German was given the perfect lead-out by his Giant-Shimano teammates and Kristoff knew that he had to surprise Kittel.

 

While Jonas Ahlstrand was riding on the front to set up Kittel, Kristoff made his move by launching a long sprint. He quickly passed the Giant riders and managed to box Kittel in, with the German having to brake slightly and lose his momentum. From there, the outcome was never in doubt and Kristoff easily held off Hushovd, Edward Theuns and Kittel to take an important home win.

 

The stage took place on a 207km course from Honningsvåg to Alta that brought the riders from the far North of Norway along mainly flat roads towards the south. There were a few gradual climbs in the finale but only one of them was categorized and only the 1.5% rise to the finish was expected to potentially challenge the sprinters.

 

With a strong headwind, there was no great incentive to go on the attack. With a KOM sprint coming early, however, the race started pretty fast and the riders got to the ascent after 20km of racing before a break took off.

 

Krister Hagen (Øster Hus), Andreas Erland (Sparebanken), Laurent Evrard (Wallonie) and Peter Theodorsen (Ringeriks) attacked on the slopes and they fought hard to get an advantage. After Hagen had led them over the top, the peloton slowed down and after 25km of racing, they were already 4.30 ahead.

 

Belkin had taken control in the peloton with Stef Clement riding on the front but after 45km of racing, Katusha and Giant-Shimano took over. At this point, the gap was 8.00 and for most of the day Fredrik Ludvigsson (Giant) and Anton Vorobyev (Katusha) were keeping the situation under control.

 

Theodorsen won the first intermediate sprint ahead of Evrard and Erland while the peloton started to accelerate. With 100km to go, the gap had been brought down to 4.50 and 10km further down the road, it was only 3.05.

 

The headwind made it an easy stage and there was a calm atmosphere while Ludvigsson and Vorobyev kept the gap around 3.00. With 65km to go, race leader Lars Petter Nordhaug (Belkin) hit the deck but luckily he was unhurt.

 

With 40km to go, the gap was down to less than 2 minutes and now Belkin had also started to chase, with Clement contributing to the pace-setting. Theodosen beat Evrard and Erland in the second intermediate sprint.

 

With 40km to go, Hagen attacked and as only Erland could keep up with him, Evrard and Theodorsen fell back to the peloton. The front duo did well to reopen their gap to 3 minutes and with 25km to go, they were still more than 2.30 ahead.

 

Giant and Katusha stepped up as Thierry Hupond and Maxim Belkov started to ride on the front. At this point, Lars Petter Nordhaug sprinted against Michael Olsson (Ringeriks) in the final intermediate sprint in an attempt to pick up the final bonus second but he was beaten by the Swedish champion.

 

Two riders tried to attack just after the sprint but Katusha and Giant-Shimano brought them back. With 15km to go, the front duo were just 30 seconds ahead and even though they managed to maintain that advantage for some time, their move was doomed.

 

With 11km to go, the group was caught and now Hupond, Belkov and Vorobyev set a hard pace to avoid any further attacks. With 8km to go, a big crash brought down most of the IAM and MTN teams but the main favourites avoided the carnage.

 

Inside the final 5km, Joker hit the front and they led the peloton until Topsport took over 2km from the line. Katusha had a brief stint on the front but with 1.5km to go, Giant kicked into action with Johannes Fröhlinger.

 

Albert Timmer launched the lead-out just as they passed the flamme rouge and he reacted quickly to an attack by Julien Fouchard (Cofidis). However, he had no response when Matthias Brändle (IAM) made a move and this forced Ahlstrand to take off. The Swede brought the Austrian back but just as Kittel was about to launch his sprint, Kristoff made his clever move that gave him the win.

 

Nordhaug finished safely in the bunch and so defended his 11-second lead over Davide Villella (Cannondale). Tomorrow he faces a big test in the queen stage which is mostly flat but has a nasty sting in its tail. A tough climb will serve as a warm-up for the ascent up to the finish at the top of Kvanangsfjellet for the first ever summit finish in the young race.

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