After two near-misses, John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) finally got that elusive first victory of the 2016 season when he came out on top in a huge clash between the Milan-Sanremo champions on the final stage of the Arctic Race of Norway. With a perfectly timed sprint, he managed to pass Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Arnaud Demare (FDJ) on the uphill finishing straight to finish off perfect work from his teammates while Gianni Moscon (Sky) finished safely to take the overall win ahead of Stef Clement (IAM) and Oscar Gatto (Tinkoff).
We have gathered several reactions.
Gianni Moson: This is a big step in my career
Gianni Moscon sealed the Arctic Race title on the final sprint stage in Norway to cap a fantastic race for the team.
The young Italian wrapped up the first professional GC win of his career by finishing in the bunch after his exhilarating solo win on stage three.
It caps a brilliant four days for Team Sky, after Danny van Poppel won stage two in fine style, and the team also sealed the team classification prize.
With the breakaway sweeping up all of the day's bonus seconds prior to the finish, Moscon's victory was all but assured - he just had to finish in the pack, which he did comfortably, shepherded home by Ben Swift.
Van Poppel sprinted to fifth on the final day, with John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) claiming the win and denying the Dutchman the points jersey.
It was another strong team performance, with Lars Petter Nordhaug spending a large part of the day on the front of the bunch, keeping the breakaway in check.
Moscon stayed calm and finished comfortably, also wrapping up the young rider classification in the process.
“It's amazing,” he said. “It's was something different for me today, leading a stage race and I'm very happy to reach the finish as the winner. I'm not sure how much this will change my career but it's an important step.
“It's a nice race with great landscapes. The most important memory will be the feeling I got when I crossed the line yesterday. I'll remember it for a long time and I'd love to come back to Northern Norway.”
John Degenkolb: This feels like a victory in a monument
After coming second on two occasions in the preceding stages of the Arctic Race of Norway, John Degenkolb has triumphed on the final stage, with a late surge to the line enough to propel him to victory in the bunch sprint. The win marks his first since suffering career-threatening injuries back in January, making it an extremely important result for both himself and the team. After his two previous 2nd places, added to this victory, Degenkolb also finished the week as the winner of the green points jersey.
Giant-Alpecin hit the front with just over 2km to go, keeping Degenkolb where he needed to be for the run-in. Keeping out of the wind on the barriers, Degenkolb waited for his competitors to jump first, before latching onto their wheels and coming around in the closing metres to take the win.
"It's a great relief to get the victory, and it took a lot of energy, almost as much as winning a Monument. I'm super happy to not be alone here as the team did an awesome job, incredibly good. They timed the lead-out perfectly and I was able to finish it off with good legs in the end. I was really close to the win twice already this week but it didn't work out, and then today it went fine and we did a great job.
“It's really incredible to be a winner again. It's a big victory. In my mind, it counts like a victory in a monument of cycling. It’s only the Arctic race but it feels like a Classic. It's been a hard week and a hard day today. Everything went fine today. It feels awesome. We were a strong peloton here.
”I was expecting less action in the bunch. It was hard in the climbs and we struggled to bring the breakaway back. It was really hard on the climbs and so this victory goes to all the team. They worked really hard for me all week and today was just great. Thank you guys.”
“The whole week has gone well, except for the mechanical problems that cost me the victory in the first two days. After the accident we had in January with three other riders who were here to support me this week, this is not just a victory in a HC race, it's very special. I'm relieved.
”If you experience such an accident, you know how soon everything can be over. It wasn't clear if I could ride my again but I fought to come back. I started from zero again. It's been a lot of big efforts to reach the first place again.
”It is a great relief. I've had it very hard lately. It is great to get this win for the team, but also to prove that I can still win. This is incredibly good.
”This victory is for the whole team. We have worked incredibly hard all week. Twice things din’t go perfectly. Today it was awesome.
”After the experience we had in January, one realizes that everything can disappear quickly and without warning. I was in a situation where I did not know if I could continue my career in the same way. I had to start from zero again and it cost very much.
”Overall I can say that the signals have been very good in recent weeks and months. I'm getting better and better and am very happy with it.
“Worlds is clearly a goal for me. My role is not completely defined yet. I do not know if I will go there as domestique or a leader. But for me it's just important to be on the team, be in the top six and get to represent my national team.”
Coach Dirk Reuling added: "It's his first win of the season and after his comeback so it's a special win - he really deserved it.
“There was a really hard fight in the beginning, before the first climb, then on the climb it was more controlled but BMC made it really hard and the peloton split. John was in the second split and so we had to race hard for a long time to bring it back. The team worked really well there and everything came back together.
”When the six riders were away, we put Max Kanter in the chase [at the head of peloton] – we saw he was really strong earlier in the week, and gave him the role of helping bring the gap down, which worked out. Then at the end the guys did a great lead-out and John finished it off."
Fantastic IAM team puts three riders in the top 10 at Arctic Race of Norway
Stef Clement was able to defend his second place position in the final stage without any difficulty, and thus secured IAM Cycling its 48th podium of the year, which sadly is its final season.
“Defending this second place was about as good as I could hope for today. The race was super-fast, and I was there in the final sprint, but I couldn’t really expect to do anything special. So I am happy with my final position.”
Martin Elmiger and Reto Hollenstein showed that they are still very strong with a 4th and 9th place, respectively, in the overall classification at the Arctic Race of Norway. Combining their performances with Stef Clement’s 2nd place in the overall was enough to boost the team into second place in the team standings, though on the same time as the category winners, Team Sky.
“Even if I just barely missed the podium, I am particularly happy with my current form, which makes me very confident for my upcoming races. I hope to chalk up some good results that can prove me interesting for a new team next year since I am very motivated to continue racing in 2017,” Martin Elmiger said after the race.
His teammate Reto Hollenstein also had a positive experience.
“I recovered well after the Tour de France, and felt very good in training last week. I tried to race aggressively here this week, and was active during the most important phases of this race. So I can certainly be satisfied.”
“It would have been very difficult to have improved on our placing during this final stage,” directeur sportif Kjell Carlström admitted at the end of the last stage of the Arctic Race of Norway.
“Our main goal was to secure the second place for Stef Clement at the finish. The stage for today was clearly designed for the sprinters, and so it would have been difficult to force any sort of changes in the overall standings. From the start, the break was launched very quickly, and then after that, everything was very tightly controlled. On the final circuit, we planned to put either Martin Elmiger or Reto Hollenstein into a late break. But both hesitated a touch too long before making a move, and so in the end, it was all too late and we finished with the predicted sprint. I am pleased for Stef and his second place. Let’s not forget though that the entire team had a very good race the whole week.”
Alexander Kristoff: Today Degenkolb was just stronger
It was the fourth and final day for the sprinters in the Arctic Race of Norway on Sunday with the peloton racing for victory in Bodø, located more than 100 km inside the Arctic Circle. Team KATUSHA’s Alexander Kristoff was guided in by his teammates to put up a good fight for victory, but just missed the win by the slimmest of margins to John Degenkolb (Team Giant Alpecin).
”We managed to get in good position with Jacopo [Guarnieri], Marco [Haller] and Slava [Kuznetsov], as well as the other guys. I had a perfect spot, right on the wheel of Démare, which was the best wheel. I didn’t start my sprint too early either, but John was just a little bit stronger today and managed to pass me in the last meter. It was a pity but I was close. I’m a little disappointed not to win it,” said Alexander Kristoff.
“Degenkolb is strong and I find it nice that he gets win. He has had a hard season and is a nice guy.”
It was a late catch of the 4-man breakaway at 2,5 km to go, forcing the sprint trains to hustle into action for the final. Jacopo Guarnieri was the last to pull off from in front of Kristoff, and Kristoff found himself on the wheel of fast man Arnaud Démare of FDJ. He was patient in the sprint, only going clear in the closing meters and looking strong for the win, but Degenkolb came by him right on the finish line to take the win.
Kristoff was the best-placed rider for KATUSHA in 14th on GC.
Tinkoff: Gatto’s podium is a very good result
It was an expected sprint finish that decided the final stage of the Arctic Race of Norway, and coming through with a fast finish for Tinkoff was Nikolay Trusov, taking a strong ninth place. After moving up to third with yesterday’s finish, Oscar Gatto secures his spot on the GC podium, taking third spot.
The Tinkoff jerseys were well up the front coming into the final kilometres, readying for the sprint and keeping Gatto out of trouble. As the sprint opened up in Bodø it was Trusov who was up there for the team, taking a place in the top ten.
After the finish, Sport Director Bruno Cenghialta gave some insight into the day.
"The Arctic Race of Norway concluded, as expected, with a very fast stage. I'm satisfied with the way the guys raced today and we managed to retain Oscar Gatto's third overall, which was, of course, the main goal today. The bunch sprint was extremely fast and the other teams had brought their best sprinters, Degenkolb, Kristoff or Demare, and there wasn't much more we could do.
“The overall assessment as well is positive and I think we can be happy with what we achieved in this race. The guys gave their best and Oscar's podium place can be considered a very good result."
Strong sprint from Hofland, Van Asbroeck takes mountains jersey, Vanmarcke impresses
Team LottoNL-Jumbo rider Moreno Hofland placed fourth in the final stage of the Arctic Race of Norway today. The German John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) won the stage and the Italian Gianni Moscon (Team Sky) held on to the overall classification. Hofland’s place marked the third time in the race the team placed in the top 10. In addition, Tom Van Asbroeck took the mountains jersey.
Today’s fourth stage, 193 kilometres, travelled from Arctic Circle to Bodo. Several tried to escape, the last breakaway of six riders lasted until two kilometres remaining. Degenkolb battled for the sprint with Norwegian Kristoff (Katusha). Behind, Hofland crossed the line in fourth.
"I saw a nice race today," Sports Director Frans Maassen said. “So much happened today. On the first hill, team BMC drove the peloton into pieces and left only a small group. Sep Vanmarcke and Tom van Asbroeck were in there, and Van Asbroeck took the points for the mountain jersey. We put in a lot of energy, so it's nice that it succeeded.
"Soon became clear that it was going to be a bunch sprint. In the last kilometre, we were just too far behind as a team but quickly corrected. Hofland rode a good sprint. It is unfortunate that everything didn’t fall into place for him, but his sprint was OK."
Van Asbroeck managed to defend his mountain jersey successfully. He made the first group to take points and the final escape gobbled up the rest, ensuring he kept his top.
“It's a nice trophy. I fought for it every day. It's been a battle against Andreas Schillinger from Bora. I was a bit luckier than him to get into the breakaway today and it was fun to do this. I hope to do it again.
”I already have a lot of great memories but this will remain as a tasty one with all the salmon I won. But I'm a sprinter, not a climber. It made it easier to sprint at the top of the climbs but the climbs weren't easy for me.”
Not only the jersey, but Van Asbroeck takes home a year's supply of Norwegian Salmon.
"We are satisfied with the Arctic Race of Norway. In yesterday's stage, we did not have the right rider with us in the race, but we still showed ourselves at the front in that and the rest of the stages. Two fourth places, one third place and the mountains jersey is a good result.
“Vanmarcke also ensured that Van Asbroeck could take the mountain points and in the final, he did everything possible to put Hofland in position. For me, Vanmarcke stands out.”
Andrea Guardini: I cannot be satisfied with this
“Unfortunately even today the sprint hasn’t gone as I hoped,” explained Andrea Guardini after the finish. I took Van Poppel’s wheel but it was not the right one and on the other side Degenkolb and Kristoff did a better sprint.
“I was focused on today’s stage as the one the most suitable to me so I cannot be satisfied with my performance. Despite this I finish this beautiful Artic Race of Norway with a good condition and I'm pretty confident for the next races.”
The Astana Pro Team riders finished in the top 10 on 3 stages, with Tleubayev seventh on the first stage and Andrea Guardini seventh on the second stage and sixth in today’s fourth stage.
August Jensen confirms potential with second top 10 in Norway
August Jensen (Coop) obtained his second top 10 with 7th place in the final sprint.
“It's had to say that I expected it, but I'd certainly hoped for it, especially after the tenth place on the second stage, he told procycling.no
“I tried a few attacks in the first part but luckily for me it was Øivind (Lukkedahl) who got there. If I had been in the break, it would undoubtedly have destroyed asked my chances.
”It is not impossible to be on the podium at the Tour des Fjords. I also did well at the Tour of Norway so a podium in Fjords is probably not impossible.”
Marcus Burghardt: I wanted to take my chance in this stage
A strong ride in the breakaway by Marcus Burghardt wasn’t enough to spoil the day for the sprinters on stage 4 of the Arctic Race of Norway, which saw John Degenkolb (Team Giant Alpecin) win the bunch sprint.
Four riders went clear early in the stage but were reeled in to make way for a split in the peloton where Philippe Gilbert, Marcus Burghardt, Amaël Moinard and Michael Schär were part of the small selection up the front.
As the two groups came together again Daniel Oss launched an attack, following which Marcus Burghardt made the final six-man breakaway.
Burghardt’s breakaway stayed clear until the final of three laps of the finishing circuit in Bodo when the peloton brought them back with just 2.5km to go, setting the stage for the bunch sprint.
Philippe Gilbert crossed the line in the front group to retain his eighth place overall and Amaël Moinard just behind in tenth place.
Marcus Burghardt said:
“It’s hard against all of the sprinters’ teams and we were four riders in the breakaway in the final part of the stage which is not many. I think I did most of the work to stay away and I was feeling very strong. I just wanted to try. I haven’t had many opportunities to get in a breakaway in the last few months so I wanted to take the chance today and go for the victory. We thought that if the gap to the first breakaway was not too big that we would go on that first big climb and that’s what we did. I think this was the best way because we put a lot of pressure on the sprinters’ teams so we had at least a small chance to keep the breakaway away.”
Philippe Gilbert: Today I finally found my good legs
Philippe Gilbert said:
“Eighth overall isn’t a good result but it’s not a bad result either. I came here from Rio jet-lagged and the temperature difference was a big shock for the body, so I was feeling pretty bad in the first couple of days. But the climb yesterday opened my legs a bit and today was the first day that I was feeling good on the bike. It’s been a long time and I’m happy to feel good again so this gives me confidence for the Vuelta a Espana. Before San Sebastian and Rio I was missing a stage race because the Tour of Poland wasn’t a great race, so now I have a good race in my legs and I’m happy. With this I think I can go with ambition to the next races.”
Sports director Klaas Lodewyck added:
“After 72km kilometers of racing was the top of climb and we were actually lucky that the breakaway went pretty late and the guys from Bora-Argon 18 and Team Sky started controlling. So I told the guys that as the climb was only ten kilometers maybe we should give it a go and split up the peloton. And like this it was a war for a really long time. The first bunch came back but then Marcus Burghardt was able to set up another breakaway and got caught in the last few kilometers. As a team we did a really good job and raced aggressively which is what I like.
“Yesterday it was pity that we couldn’t win but when you only have one stage to go for GC you only have one chance. As a team I think we raced like we should at every race, aggressively and showing who we are. As my first race as Sports Director with BMC Racing Team I’m happy with how the guys raced.”
Joker rider shows impressive strength in breakaway in Norway
Many were impressed by Anders Skaarseth (Joker) who looked like the strongest rider in the break.
“It was fun, not just a boring stage, he told Procycling.no.
”I noticed that I was pretty good, while a few others were tired. Those who were there in the end cooperated well.”
Sick Sam Bennett abandons, frustration for Paul Voss
BORA – ARGON 18’s sprinter Sam Bennett was not able to compete in the sprint today because he didn’t take the start due to a strong cold.
The race started with a lot of attacks with BORA – ARGON 18 trying to break away. Andreas Schillinger was still in the game for the KOM and Paul Voss was hunting some bonus seconds for the GC. But all efforts of the team failed.
BORA – ARGON 18 tried to lead out Zak Dempster, but the team lost each other and Dominik Nerz in 32nd place was the team’s best placed rider in the end. Paul Voss finished the Arctic Race Norway in 15th place. Andreas Schillinger was 3rd in the KOM classification.
“After Sam was out of the race today, we tried to ride offensively from the start. Schilli still had the chance to take the KOM classification. He was in several groups like Lukas Pöstlberger and Paul Voss, but they could not go clear from the peloton. In the end Schilli did not take any points today. The 15th place from Paul in the GC is ok, but he lost 23 seconds on the first day when he tried to bring Sam back after the last climb. Without those lost seconds he would have been in 7th place, that hurts now,” said André Schulze, sports director.
ONE Pro Cycling on the offensive on final day in Norway
For ONE Pro Cycling, Pete Williams and Karol Domagalski took it in turns to monitor the break before Steele Von Hoff sprinted across the line to secure a top 20 on the fourth and final stage of the Arctic Tour.
As soon as the flag dropped there were many teams looking to try and place a man in the all important breakaway of the day, with Karol Domagalski, Martin Mortensen, Kristian House and Pete Williams all covering a variety of moves that were quickly shut down by the peloton. After around 20km of racing and on the long descent a group of 13 riders forced themselves clear. This move included Yorkshire based Pete Williams and a number of strong GC teams which would put the overall placings at threat and the gap was allowed to grow to a maximum of 30 seconds before the peloton decided to close it down.
With both groups riding hard this took a number of kilometres to reabsorb the leaders back into the bunch and just before it all came back together, four riders sprung clear of the lead group and formed a smaller breakaway, once again including breakaway specialist Pete Williams.
The race had just hit the 32km point as these four riders forced themselves clear however it wasn’t going to come easy to them as Bora Argon 18 held them at 20 seconds for the next 10km as they were frantically trying to place a man in the breakaway.
Finally the elastic snapped and the peloton began to sit up as the four worked hard together to extend their lead over the peloton to two minutes. However as the peloton reached the footslopes of the first category climb and with the breakaway having an advantage of over 2 minutes the fireworks started catching a lot of riders by surprise especially with 130km still to race. A group of 22 forced themselves clear including all the favourites whilst the bunch behind split into many groups.
By the time the race reached the summit of the 10km climb after 72km of racing the breakaway had been caught by the 22 leaders of the peloton. Once down the long descent and onto the next climb the race started to re-group and at this point Karol Domagalski attacked with 4 other riders to establish a small advantage. One rider decided to jump across the gap to make a group of 6 leaders with around 90km of racing to go.
The peloton once again sat up and the lead went out to 2 minutes 30 seconds. The break of six worked extremely well together and as they came into the finishing town of Bodo with 30km to go they still had an advantage of 50 seconds. Once on the final 3 laps the break started to squeeze on leaving just four leaders including Domagalski. They were still fighting hard to hold the peloton at bay but were finally swept up inside the last 4km to leave all eyes on the bunch sprint.
Steele Von Hoff sprinted home in 16th place. Pete Williams also had a very credible finish taking 28th overall and ONE Pro Cycling’s best placing on the General Classification.
Low-key performance for Dimension Data in Norway
Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were again trying to position Youcef Reguigui for the final and Tyler Farrar’s presence was felt at the front of the peloton with 1.5km to go. A couple of tight turns in the last few kilometers saw some gaps opening between wheels and anybody not in the first 10 places with 1km to go had zero chance of contesting for the win.
Reguigui was caught a bit behind the sharp end of the sprint before it really opened up and he would roll across the line in 24th place. In the general classification, Johann van Zyl was the best placed rider at 2’47” behind Moscon, a good comeback from injury by the South African after 2 and a half months away from racing.
Johann van Zyl said:
“Today was much harder than what it looked like on paper. The break took ages to go and it was a super fast start with a downhill after a couple of kilometers. I found myself in a nice break with a couple of riders but Katusha and Trek weren’t happy with the composition of the break so unfortunately we were brought back. Then BMC attacked on the 10km cat 1 climb which took everyone by surprise. We were in the 2nd group again so we had to ride pretty hard with Trek, Katusha and Giant to bring it back for Tyler and Youcef who were up for the sprint. The day went like that all stage, breaks going and then being caught again. It probably made for some exciting racing to watch as there was action all day long.
”I’m more or less satisfied with my first race back. I honestly expected to perform much better as I worked super hard to come back strong. I’m obviously lacking some racing speed and will take this to build up towards a stronger next performance. ”
Fabian Wegmann pleased to show himself on final day in Norway
On the final stage of the Arctic Race of Norway (2.HC), Fabian Wegmann bridged to the breakaway on his own. They were only caught in the final.
Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team) made a move on the Ljøsenhammeren that blew apart the field. Some forty riders bridged to the front quartet, but they were caught by the rest of the peloton shortly before the day’s second climb. Five other riders attacked there, Fabian Wegmann took up the chase and made it to the front after a solo chase. The gap to the peloton never rose much above two minutes, though, and at the first passage of the finish line in Bodø with 27 km on three laps of the finishing circuit still to go they were merely 55 seconds ahead.
When his companions started to attack each other on the finishing circuit, Wegmann had to pay for his earlier effort and was dropped from the break.
Fabian Wegmann said after the stage:
“I had hoped for more yesterday, but I’d taken off my clothes too early and got cold in the rain. So I tried to go for the break today. Unfortunately I didn’t quite catch the other five on the climb and had to ride 15 km on my own. That took a lot out of me, and when the others attacked in the final I couldn’t follow anymore. It was clear to me by then that the stage would end in a sprint, but I would have liked to stay at the front for a little while longer. But I’m happy to have made it into the break – on paper it looks like a sprint stage, but it was a really hard day.”
Wegmann liked his foray into the Arctic:
“It was a hard race, but very beautiful,” he continued. “As an ASO race, everything was organised perfectly, I never saw a parked car on the route, traffic islands had been tarmacked over. The race was very safe with very few crashes. The landscape is breathtaking, and the public is really enthusiastic. It was a great race.”
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