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With a powerful sprint on the finishing straight, Kristoff passed Hushovd who had attacked on the final descent in search of a goodbye win; Kruijwijk limited his losses and won the Arctic Race of Norway overall

Photo: ARN/P.Perreve
















17.08.2014 @ 18:33 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) took a symbolic win to prove his role as Thor Hushovd’s successor in Norwegian cycling when he passed his compatriot with a strong sprint on the finishing straight on the final stage of the Arctic Race of Norway. Steven Kruijwsijk (Belkin) suffered on the final climb but managed to limit his losses sufficiently to win the race overall.


Alexander Kristoff denied Thor Hushovd a big goodbye victory in the most brutal manner when he used his great power on the finishing straight in Tromsø to blast past his compatriot just metres before the finish line on the final stage of the Arctic Race of Norway. The Katusha rider finished off impressive teamwork by taking his second win of the race while Sam Bennett (NetApp) completed the podium.


Hushovd had attacked on the final descent where Kristoff had used brute strength to cover several moves and used his excellent bike-handling skills to open a gap. The BMC rider took the final turn with a few seconds of advantage but was passed by Kristoff just metres from the elusive victory.


Race leader Steven Kruijswijk suffered on the final climb and lost a few seconds to Kristoff who was trying to take it all. However, he managed to limit his losses sufficiently to win the race overall ahead of the Katusha rider and his teammate Lars Petter Nordhaug.


The five-day race ended with a 165km stage starting and finishing in Tromsø. After a flat first part with only one small climb inside the first 20km, the race came to alive in the finale when the riders did five laps of a difficult 9km finishing circuit with a short, steep 1km climb. The top came just 2km from the finish and from there it was a fast descent that led to the final flat few hundred metres.


The stage got off to a nice start under pleasant weather conditions with no overnight withdrawals. The early part of the race was very fast and it took sime time for 9 riders to get an advantage.


Maxim Belkov (Katusha), Julien Fouchard (Cofidis), Preben Van Hecke (Topsport), Nico Sijmens (Wanty), Laurent Evrard (Wallonie), Romain Pillon (Roubaix), Andreas Vangstad (Sparebanken), KOM leader August Jensen (Øster Hus) and Adrian Gjølberg (FixIT) fought hard to get a bigger gap. While Gregory Habeaux (Wanty) abandoned the race, they dangled 30 seconds ahead of the peloton.


Pillon and Gjølberg both got dropped on the first climb while Jensen beat Van Hecke and Evrard in the sprint at the top. At this point, the escapees had extended their advantage to 1.05.


The 7 remaining escapees pressed on and while the peloton slowed down a bit, they increased their gap to 1.45. However, that was as much as they would get as Belkin and Joker kept the gap stable around that mark for a while.


Van Hecke beat Fouchard and Belkov in the first intermediate sprint and at this point the gap was just 1.25. Belkin and Joker continued to ride hard and brought the gap down to 30 seconds when Van Hecke decided to drop back.


This allowed the escapees to reopen their advantage to 55 seconds but Joker were not content with the situation. With 73km to go, the gap was again just 30 seconds which prompted Vangstad to take off on his own.


Belkov and Jensen dropped back to the peloton while the attacking started in the peloton. Vegard Robsinson Bugge (Joker) and Edward Theuns (Topsport) bridged the gap to Evrard, Fouchard and Sijmens who were still in pursuit of Vangstad.


Vangstd had increased his gap to 1.05 as the peloton slowed down after Joker had sent Bugge off in an attack. With 65km to go, he was caught by the chasers while Katusha had taken over the pace-setting in the peloton.


The gap reached 1.40 when Bugge and Theuns dropped their companions on a small bridge near the finishing circuit. The first time up the climb on the finishing circuit, Bugge fell off, leaving just Theuns to press on.


The peloton went fast up the climb and at the first passage of the finish line they were just 55 seconds behind Theuns. Kristoffer Skjerping (Joker) made a small attack but Katusha quickly shut it down.


Jan Barta (NetApp) attacked the next time up the climb and together with Marcus Fåglum Karlsson (Ringeriks) and Andreas Erland (Sparebanken), he bridged the gap to Theuns. As the group was not very organized, Fåglum Karlsson got an unintentional gap and soon built an advantage of 16 seconds over his former companions.


Belkin had now taken control of the peloton to neutralize the many attacks and they brought the chase trio back. The next time up the climb, Daniel Schorn (NetApp) and Maxime Anciaux (Wallonie) attacked and started to get closer to the lone leader.


With 21.5km to go, Fåglum Karlsson was 35 seconds ahead and it was now Marcel Kittel (Giant) who led the peloton onto the climb. As soon as the road started to ramp upwards, he drifted back while Reidar Borgersen (Joker), Sebastian Lander (BMC) and Sindre Lunke (Sparebanken) attacked.


Anciaux had dropped Schorn and joined Fåglum Karlsson while Katusha was now again in control of the peloton. Lander, Borgersen, Lunke and Scott Thwaites (NetApp) who had bridged the gap joined the leader, but the group quickly split up, with Thwaites and Lander getting clear.


The penultimate time up the climb, Martin Elmiger set a brutal pace for IAM that made the peloton blow to pieces. In the process, he caught the leaders before allowing his teammate Matthias Brändle to give it a go.


When the Austrian was brought back, Loic Vliegen (BMC) attacked but BMC had now taken control. Sven Erik Bystrøm and Simon Spilak were riding hard on the front and it was the latter that led the peloton onto the climb for the final time, with some assistance from Cannondlae.


Brändle attacked as soon as the roads ramped upwards but it was the counterattack by Albert Timmer (Giant) that put Kristoff on the defensive. The Norwegian had to close it himself and when Oscar Gatto (Cannondale) made the next move, he again had to reacht.


At the top, the pair had a small gap over their nearest chasers as the peloton had now split to pieces. Kruijwsijk was in a lot of trouble and was riding back in around 10th position.


Hushovd did an impressive descent and flew past the leading pair. Kristoff did his best to limit the losses but at the bottom, the Katusha rider was a few seconds behind.


Hushovd entered the finishing straight with a small advantage but when Kristoff dropped the hammer, he had no response. The winner of stage 2 passed his compatriot to take another victory while Hushovd had to settle for second ahead of Bennett.


Kruijswijk limited his losses and won the race overall ahead of Kristoff and Nordhaug. Kristoff won the points competition while Jensen took the mountains jersey. Davide Villella (Cannondale) was the best young rider and Belkin won the teams classification.



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