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In a tough final with three climbs, Nordhaug showed great motivation and excellent condition by launching repeated attacks before getting clear of his own to win stage 1 of the Arctic Race of Norway and become the first leader

Photo: Belkin Pro Cycling Team










14.08.2014 @ 18:04 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Lars Petter Nordhaug (Belkin) proved that he is very much up for the challenge of winning the second edition of the Arctic Race of Norway when he won the tough opening stage of the race in solo fashion. Having attacked repeatedly on the many climbs in the finale, he finally got clear and held off Davide Villella (Cannondale) and Steven Kruijswijk (Belkin) to take the victory and first leader’s jersey of the race.


Last year Thor Hushovd won the inaugural edition of the Arctic Race of Norway but this year the local crowds have put their hopes on another rider. With a tougher course and two uphill finishes, the race is now expected to suit the climbers and this has made Lars Petter Nordhaug the favourite to win the race.


Today Nordhaug proved that he is ready to win the northernmost race in the world when he took a dominant solo win in the first stage of the race. Having used his teammates to control the long 204km course, he made his move on the penultimate climb.


Initially he got clear with Simon Spilak (Katusha) but that duo was brought back by 8 chasers. On the final climb to the finish, however, Nordhaug kicked again and this time there was no one stopping the Belkin leader who dropped everybody and rode away to a solo victory.


The second edition of the Arctic Race of Norway kicked off with a very hilly stage in the far north of Norway. It brought the riders over 204km from Hammerfest to North Cape and after a mostly flat first part, things got really difficult in the finale. The riders tackled two hard climbs inside the final 25km before they went up a 3km uncategorized ascent to the finish.


The riders took the start in very windy and cold conditions for what was the northernmost bike race ever. The stage started off pretty calmly and the early break was established pretty early.


Luke Davison (BMC), Kevin Seeldrayers (Wanty), Davide Frattini (UnitedHealthCare), Morten Morland (Sparebanken) and August Jensen (Øster Hus) opened a gap and as no one wanted to take control, the gap grew quickly. After 17km, they were already 6.45 ahead but now Belkin hit the front and started to keep the break in check.


Davison beat Jensen and Frattini in the first intermediate sprint while Belkin kept the gap stable just below the 6-minute mark. Inside the final 100km, they started to accelerate and with 80km to go, they had brought the gap down to 3.30.


Stef Clement was doing the majority of the work for the Ducth team while the escapees contested the second intermediate sprint. Again Davison was the fastest as he held off Seeldrayers and Jensen.


In a long 6.6km tunnel, Jensen and Seeldrayers attacked and so they emerged from the dark as the leaders of the race. At this point, however, their advantage had been reduced to just around a minute and their break seemed to be doomed.


The two escapees managed to keep the gap stable around a minute while Belkin continued to set the pace in the peloton but as they neared the first climb of the day, they started to lose ground. Seeldrayers won the final intermediate sprint at the bottom while Nordhaug sprinted ahead to pick up the final bonus second.


As soon as they started to climb, Seeldrayers got dropped, leaving just Jensen to press on. Meanwhile, Belkin was still riding on the front as Steven Kruijswijk has now taken over the pace-setting.


A Roubaix rider started the attacking and a few more riders tried to give it a go. They passed Jensen along the way but Kruijwsijk brought things back together.


Matthias Brändle (IAM) had been one of the active riders and with 20km to go, the Austrian got a small gap. Michael Olsson (Ringeriks-Krafy) tried to bridge the gap but was brought back soon after.


Brändle crested the summit as the lone leader and now had an advantage of 25 seconds. For alittle while no one took control in the peloton before Katusha hit the front, with Alexander Kristoff doing a massive amount of work.


The Norwegian kept Brändle in check while a big group of dropped riders managed to rejoin the peloton. As they hit the bottom of the second climb, Brändle was almost caught and now it was time for Belkin to kick into action.


Nick Van Der Lijke launched the first attack and Martin Wesemann (MTN) also gave it a go as the attacking continued for a little while. However, NetApp took control and started to ride hard on the front which caused the group to splinter to pieces. Marcel Kittel and Thor Hushovd were among the riders to get dropped.


With 7km to go, Nordhaug launched his attack and he got an immediate gap. Simon Spilak (Katusha) took off in pursuit while a group with Loic Vliegen, Amael Moinard (both BMC), Kruijswijk, Davide Villella (Cannondale), Martin Elmiger (IAM), Vegard Stake Laengen (both Bretagne), Paul Voss (NetApp) and Jonathan Hivert (Belkin) formed a little further back.


Spilak bridged the gap but as the front dup started to lose ground, they decided to wait for their chasers. With 4km to go, the junction was made and Vliegen made an immediate solo attack.


The BMC stagiaire failed to get clear and instead Nordhaug made his move when they hit the bottom of the final rise to the finish. No one had any response and he kept increasing his advantage all the way to the line while Kruijswijk and Villella escaped in the finale. The Italian won the sprint for second with a time loss of 6 seconds while the rest of the group rolled across the line 3 seconds later. An impressive Kristoff finished 10th at 15 seconds.


With the win Nordhaug is of course also the first leader of the race and he goes into the easiest stage of the race with an 11-second lead over Villella. There are no categorized climbs in stage 2 which should suit the sprinters but the finishing straight is slightly uphill which may cause a few problems for some of the fast finishers.



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