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"He did a really good sprint. I had a hard time coming past him if he had a smooth sprint because he timed it really well but at the end I was jumping and I got the win so I'm happy."

Photo: Sirotti


11.08.2016 @ 20:36 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) took a very popular home victory on the first stage of the Arctic Race of Norway but he needed a good portion of luck to continue his run of success in his home race. The Norwegian had to start his sprint far behind John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) who was given the perfect lead-out by Søren Kragh Andersen but when the German’s chain started to jump, Kristoff narrowly managed to come around to take the win and the first leader’s jersey. Danny Van Poppel (Sky) was a distant third.


We have gathered several reactions.


Alexander Kristoff: I wouldn’t have won without Degenkolb’s bad luck

KATUSHA’s Alexander Kristoff opened up the 4th Arctic Race of Norway with an exciting sprint win in Rognan, marking the 20th win of the 2016 cycling season for the team. Just edging out John Degenkolb by half a wheel width, it was a solid return to form for the Norwegian sprinter on his home soil.


”I was hoping to win and I managed to get it but I think I was a bit lucky because at the end I lost my teammates. I came on the wheel of Degenkolb (Team Giant-Alpecin) and he timed the sprint perfectly, but lucky for me he had some technical issues with his gears jumping and I managed to pass him. I think actually I would have had trouble passing him if he had a smooth sprint,” said Alexander Kristoff, who chalked up his ninth win of the year, his most recent victory coming last May in the Amgen Tour of California.


“I was kind of lucky. I was a bit alone in the final. Degenkolb had a good lead-out at the end. He came really fast but his gear was jumping, he had technical issues and I managed to pass him, so luck was on my side. He did a really good sprint. I had a hard time coming past him if he had a smooth sprint because he timed it really well but at the end I was jumping and I got the win so I'm happy.


Coming into the technical finish, Kristoff found himself without his lead-out men, but managed to place himself behind Degenkolb for the sprint. Kristoff came around to Degenkolb’s left to earn the win with Danny van Poppel of Team Sky rounding out the daily podium. The reduced group sprint for the 180,5 km stage from Fauske to Rognan averaged 42.234 km/h for a time of 4:10.02.


”I felt quite good today. After the Tour I was sick for one week so I’ve only done one week of training so I wasn’t sure how I would feel, but my body felt quite light. I lacked a little bit of speed in the sprint, but I hope it will come and I will be ready for tomorrow,” said Kristoff. With the win he also takes the first race lead and will wear the leader’s jersey for Friday’s stage 2. He currently leads Gregory Rast (Trek-Segafredo) by three-seconds and Degenkolb by 4-seconds on the classification. Kristoff also leads in the points competition.


”I felt good for my come-back race. I was up there although I had been sick for one week after the Tour. I had only one week of training so I wasn't really sure how I'd feel. The climb was not too hard today. I managed quite easy so I'll try again tomorrow.


“The world championship in Qatar is a big goal for me but firstly I have Hamburg and Plouay coming up now. I've been close to winning a few times at the Tour de France but it seems like luck has turned to my advantage now. It's encouraging for the rest of the season.”


A break of six riders were the breakaway of the day, holding almost seven minutes along the way. Eventually teams worked to bring them back with the last rider pulled in near 5 km to go to set the stage for the mass sprint won by Kristoff.


”We didn’t want to use the team to pull for the entire day, so we used a few guys to help control. When I saw other teams come forward the gap came down fast and with 30 km to go I felt confident we had it under control and would bring them back,” said Kristoff.  


“Normally this race is a little bit too hard for me on stage 3 and we have Rein Taaramäe here who won last year so I think he will be better come stage 3, but I will try to win the stage again tomorrow and then on the last day. For stage 3 I will try to minimize my losses. If it’s a head wind on the climb it’s possible,” explained Kristoff. 


Frustrated John Degenkolb: Without the mechanical, I would have won easily

In the final sprint for the line, John Degenkolb nearly pulled off the win with a strong finishing sprint, coming over the line in second place with Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) taking the win.


John Degenkolb said: “I felt really good and strong throughout the whole stage. The team did a great job in supporting me all day. In the finale, I was set up perfectly for the sprint and I think I could have won without the mechanical problems.”


"My bike mine did not work. I sprinted in the eleventh and the gear jumped all the way,” he told TV2. “There were 100 meters to go, I had the victory. I would have won easily


"I think that the team did a fantastic job today. But of course, I'm very disappointed with what happened with the bike. I do not know what happened.


“It was a really a perfect sprint. I opened the sprint at the right time, the timing was perfect. Hence, it is a pity when the bike doesn’t work. But there are more stages. I felt good the whole stage, I felt better and better in the Tour de France. It was a positive experience to be there and test myself against the best. I'll win soon.”


Coach Dirk Reuling added: “It is great to see that John is showing some great form. In the finale, the lead-out was good, it is just a shame that he suffered a mechanical malfunction in the last meters.


“All the guys did what they were supposed to. But in the final he got mechanical problems which cost him victory. It was a pity.


Danny Van Poppel confirms good form in Norwegian opener

Danny van Poppel got the Arctic Race of Norway off to a strong start with third place in the opening sprint.


The Dutchman was manoeuvred into position by his Team Sky team-mates on the fast run into Rognan, continuing his recent momentum with another podium finish.


Gianni Moscon also mixed it up in the sprint to finish 10th, with Team Sky riders all avoiding a high-speed crash across the finish line.


Lars-Petter Nordhaug finished safely in the bunch to kick off his general classification campaign in his homeland, while bonus seconds for the breakaway saw Van Poppel sit fifth overall overnight, six seconds behind race leader Alexander Kristoff.


The Norwegian (Katusha) narrowly edged out John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) after 180.5km, with Van Poppel darting across into their slipstream to pick up third. Ben Swift and Sebastian Henao were also present in the main peloton, with Andy Fenn coming home 23 seconds later.


Seven riders had pushed on in the break out of Fauske, and despite their gap opening out to seven minutes, the stage held a sting in the tail in the form of the first-category Ljosenhammeren summit.


Moscon was prominently positioned over the top, with Andreas Schillinger (Bora-Argon 18) the last the final man to be caught with 4.6km to go.

Moreno Hofland not strong enough, 500kg of salmon for Van Asbroeck

Moreno Hofland finished fourth in the first stage of the Arctic Sea Race today in Rognan, Norway. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s sprinter was beaten by winner Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), John Degenkolb (Giant - Alpecin) and Danny van Poppel (Team Sky). Tom Van Asbroeck made the breakaway and took points to wear the mountain jersey.


“It was a tough day with quite a hard climb in the final part of the race,” Sports Director Frans Maassen said. “It wasn’t clear that the stage was going to end up in a bunch sprint, so we decided to ride aggressively today.


“Tom Van Asbroeck was part of the breakaway and he got some space. He reached the top of the final climb in front of the peloton, but it wasn’t enough to hold them off. He grabbed the most mountain points on the other hand, and won 500 kilograms of salmon.”


“After the final climb, we were at the finish line quickly,” Moreno Hofland said. “The roads twisted and turned often, and I lost Sep Vanmarcke’s wheel in that chaos. Dennis van Winden came to me afterwards and brought me back to the wheels of the sprinters. I was in Danny van Poppel’s wheel, but I wasn’t strong enough to pass him in the end.”


Moreno Hofland probably will have another shot on Friday.


“Tomorrow’s stage seems to be easier than today’s,” Maassen added. “The breakaway might have a chance, but I’m expecting the race to end up in a bunch sprint. We want to lead out Moreno as good as possible.”


Niccolo Bonifazio misses out in first sprint, Giacomo Nizzolo to lead in stage 2

Trek-Segafredo executed flawless teamwork in the opening stage of the Arctic Race of Norway: Gregory Rast jumped into the early breakaway, riding out front until 14 kilometers from the end, and the team finished it off with a textbook lead-out for Niccolo Bonifazio. However, Bonifazio did not have the legs to go with the surge in the final meters and faded to 6th place.


"Everything was perfect, the whole day was perfect, but missing the legs in the end," explained director Kim Andersen. "It was a really nice day, the team did an excellent job, and the idea was to go for Niccolo today. We had Rasty in the front the whole day, and I really thought he could be there until the end.


"Niccolo said he had quite good legs until the rain in the downhill, and then he was feeling cold. Then in the lead out behind the team, he was telling himself, 'it's okay! It's okay!'. I think when Degenkolb attacked he would have liked to have gone with him, but he didn't have the legs there to follow."


The 176.5-kilometer stage ended with a category-one climb that topped out 18 kilometers from the finish. It was a gradual but long eight-kilometer ascent, and Rast and Andreas Schillinger (Bora-Argon 18) quickly distanced the rest of the breakaway group. When Schillinger kept the accelerator pressed, Rast was unable to hold his wheel and also slipped back.


Rast was caught on the downhill with 14 kilometers remaining, while Schillinger held out until the final kilometers when he, too, succumbed to the chasing peloton led by Marco Coledan.


After Coledan's monster pull, Giacomo Nizzolo seized the reins under the one kilometer to go banner, and Boy van Poppel finished the work, taking Bonifazio to the last meters. When John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) rushed past Bonifazio, igniting the final sprint, it was time to go. Unfortunately, the legs did not comply, and Bonifazio found himself squeezed behind.


Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) edged his wheel ahead of Degenkolb at the line to take the win, while Bonifazio crossed in 6th, disappointed to not cap off the strong teamwork.


"We had seen on the map that there were a lot of turns in the final, so the plan was to be up there, and I have to say the team did a really nice job," continued Andersen. "Everything went to plan except Niccolo not quite having the legs for the final punch. That's the way it is, and tomorrow we have another chance with Giacomo."


Rast's time in the breakaway paid extra dividends: he gained bonus time in the intermediate sprints to move into second place overall, three seconds behind Kristoff.  


Ruslan Tleubayev gets his chance in Norwegian sprint

Astana Pro Team line up some of there faster riders among which are Ruslan Tleubayev and Andrea Guardini, who are supported by a team of strong men for the fast finals and the wind that surely will characterize the race.


Maxat Ayazbayev, Lars Boom, Laurens De Vreese and Arman Kamyshev will help Tleubayev and Guardini in the sprints of this edition of the Norwegian race organized by A.S.O.


The sport director in Norway Dmitriy Fofonov explained what the goal for the team in the next stages is: “Today the Team worked for the sprint of Tleubayev who finished seventh. That is not bad considering the high level of the sprinters in this race,” explained Fofonov.


“We are here to obtain the best result possible day by da and we will study a strategy looking at the conditions of the riders but also the situations that will figure out during the stages and I’m pretty confident we can do well in the next days.”


The only negative note is that Tleubayev was hit by another rider after the finish line. At the moment the Kazakh rider of the Astana Pro Team is undergoing investigations to rule out any fractures.


Young Norwegian crashes after achieving breakthrough result in Norway

Rasmus Tiller (Ringeriks-Kraft) achieved his best result ever with an 8th place. However, he crashed after the line.


“Maybe I was a bit too eager. I do not know what happened, he tells “I have to check my shoulder.


“It went very fast and I saw that I was in a good position. But suddenly there was a rider that moved to the right and I had no chance to stop.


“But I was in the top ten, so it's okay, but I would obviously like to avoid crashing. That’s the only bad thing with cycling. But I have to learn from my experience just learn as much as possible. It will certainly be better next time.”


Daniel Oss tests his form in sprint in Norway

Daniel Oss crossed the line in ninth place in the hectic sprint finish which saw Alexander Kristoff (Team Katusha) take the win and multiple riders crash after the line.


BMC Racing Team showed strong teamwork, spending much of the last 25 kilometers at the front to pull the breakaway back before it all came together four kilometers before the line.


All six of BMC Racing Team’s riders finished in the reduced bunch and avoided the post-finish line crash.


Daniel Oss said:

“It was a pretty fast stage all day. The climb towards the end wasn’t too hard but on the top it was raining and the breakaway still had a couple of minutes’ gap. So we did some efforts on the climb and during the descent. We tried to do something in the sprint and I crossed the line in ninth place.


“After not racing for a while I raced in London and then last week at the Vuelta a Burgos before coming here to Norway, so I feel back in race shape and ready to build my form again for the end of the season.”


Sports director Klaas Lodewyck added:


“A break went of seven riders and they established a pretty big gap. The sprinters’ teams started to organise and in the end on the climb we had to give a helping hand because it was possible that the break would stay in front. The top of the climb was 12 kilometers from the finish and the breakaway still had almost two minutes so we really pushed hard, and also in the descent we tried to make a selection as it was raining.


“At the end of the climb the peloton was in four or five pieces but then everything came back together a little bit. We all finished in the first group and Daniel finished in ninth place. The team did a really good ride today.”


Oscar Gatto comes up short, sick Jay McCarthy abandons

Despite a tough climb in the final 25km of the opening stage of the Arctic Race of Norway, the race was decided by a bunch sprint from which Tinkoff finished just outside the top ten through Oscar Gatto. Coming from some way back, Gatto came across the line 11th, with teammates Nikolay Trusov and Juraj Sagan also in the reduced front peloton.


After the stage, Sport Director Bruno Cenghialta gave his view on the day:


"The Arctic Race of Norway is a fast race and the breakaways have nearly no chance of making it to the finish. It's too fast and with the exception of the third stage that has a summit finish, the other three stages should finish with a sprint. This is what took place today and teams like Katusha or Sky had the strongest sprinters.”

The fast pace had done enough to shed a number of riders from the peloton, but Gatto was still well placed with Sagan and Trusov for company. The race for the final left hand 90 degree turn with one kilometre to go was fierce, and from here it was a fast run in to the line. Coming from a long way back after losing position in the final kilometre, Gatto fought his way through the middle of the bunch but couldn’t find a clear path through, leaving him just outside the top 10 spots.


“Unfortunately, we lost Jay McCarthy early in the stage, after he withdrew with stomach problems, and then Michael Kolar was dropped on the final climb,” Cenhgialta explained. “As a result, we didn't have our fastest sprinters for the bunch finish. Kristoff was the strongest of the 90-man group and there wasn't much we could do. Oscar Gatto took eleventh and fortunately all our riders got out unscathed from the crash at the finish line. Tomorrow will be very similar to today because, as I said, there aren't many options in these fast stages."


No result for Reguigui after hard work from Brammeier in Norwegian opener

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka did not have representation in the move and so together with Team Katusha and Giant-Alpecin the African Team contributed to the pace setting throughout the stage. Matt Brammeier was the rider doing the lion’s share of the work at the head of the peloton.


Coming into the base of the climb, the break only had 2’30” on the peloton and it was certain that they would be caught before the finish. The African Team were riding to keep Youcf Reguigui well placed before the climb and Tyler Farrar and Johann van Zyl were doing a sterling job in this regard. BMC Racing and Katusha made the race as hard as possible on the climb but still just over 80 riders made the front group.


It was a fast and technical run down to the finish in Rognan and Reguigui was in the mix during the sprint finish. Trek-Segafredo seemed to have the best leadout but in the end it was Kristoff who triumphed. Reguigui was the best placed in 19th and unfortunately the Algerian was involved in a big crash just after the line. Thankfully though, it would just be a bit of road rash and he will be able to start tomorrow. Jay Thomson and Van Zyl both finished with the front group for the African Team.


Matt Brammeier said:

“It wan’t too bad of a day and I was feeling quite good. The gap went out pretty big and we had to commit to the chase if we hoped to get anything out of the day. I think I did a pretty good job, we pulled the group to around 2 minutes from the break by the start of the climb. Youcef didn’t quite have the legs in the end to get the result which was a bit of a shame after a long day in the front but that’s how bike racing goes.”


After his efforts today the Arctic Race of Norway selected Brammeier as a candidate to win the stage 1 Viking Jersey.


Impressive Andreas Schillinger almost denies the sprinters in Norway

It was not clear at the start if the sprinters would be able to survive the climb or if the GC riders would try to make a mark.

For BORA – ARGON 18 the plan was to handle this unclear situation from the head of the race to always stay in control. The team also has Sam Bennett in its line-up as the number one sprinter of the team but did not want to focus just on this card.


Just after the start then a group of 7 riders including Andreas Schillinger formed the break of the day. The group worked well together and their lead over the peloton extended to almost 7 minutes. In the peloton it was Katusha who did most of the work for their leader Alexander Kristoff.


On the final climb Schillinger was able to drop his breakaway companions and started a solo fight against the peloton in the last 25k,. It looked promising when the gap was stable at about 2 minutes over the top of the KOM, but in the decent the bunch set a really high pace. In the end he lost the fight for the stage win with about 3km to go, still a very strong performance from him. Sam Bennett was in a bad position on the last descent and unfortunately lost contact with the group and could not take part in the sprint.


Andreas Schillinger is in 4th place due to bonus seconds he got from intermediate sprints during the day. He was also awarded the most combative rider of the stage.


Stölting boxed in on first day in Norway

For Stölting, Alexander Kamp and Alex Kirsch were boxed in and couldn’t sprint for the top positions. They finished 29th and 31st, respectively.


Sports Director Jochen Hahn said: “It only rained a bit at the top of the climb, otherwise it was dry at 12-13 degrees, so the weather was alright. Kamp and Kirsch were well-placed with 5 km to go, but got boxed in in the end. Tomorrow’s stage should suit us better.”



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