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Kristoff comes inches short of capping Bergen worlds with gold

Norwegian Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) nearly put the cherry on the cake for Bergen after a week of hosting the 2017 world championships. Only Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) could stop him from winning the men’s road race by half a wheel Sunday.

Norway hosted the worlds for the first time since 1993, when Lance Armstrong won in Oslo. The idea to host another worlds developed after Thor Hushovd’s 2010 worlds victory in Geelong, Australia, and the recent run of success by Kristoff and Edvald Boasson Hagen.

“It was quite insane, a lot of people,” Kristoff commented on the home crowd in the port city, which used to serve the Vikings.

“When you think of how many people were all over the course, then it’s sick. It was a crazy atmosphere.”

The fans built up gradually from the opening team time trial on Sunday. Sunweb won the women’s event just over a week ago.

Controversy surrounded the bike changes allowed for the men’s individual time trial Wednesday, but the 3.4-kilometer uphill finish gave fans a place to gather and party to see their favorites grind past. One over-enthusiastic fan running after German Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin) was side-tackled by police.

It became a time trial worth watching, given the tactics and the close three-way battle between eventual winner Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo), and Chris Froome (Sky).

“The atmosphere was amazing,” said four-time world TT champion Martin. “Even if it wasn’t my kind of course, it was one of the best finales I’ve ever raced.”

The rest day allowed organizers to prepare Salmon Hill and the road circuit coming after the early leg down the west coast. It marked four years since Florence hosted the worlds and was the end of Brian Cookson’s short reign as UCI president. In a sport that frequently sees photo-finishes and classification battles won by seconds, Frenchman David Lappartient took a landslide 37-8 presidential victory during the governing body’s meeting.

Peter Sagan, the eventual elite men’s road race winner and the first rider two earn three consecutive titles, flew in that day. He acknowledged the fans, who eventually stacked the road course 10-deep and waved Norwegian, Slovakian, and even Eritrean flags.

“I heard a story that there was some group of my fans which flew from Krakow in Poland, and half the plane had [Michal] Kwiatkowski [fans] and half a plane for Sagan,” he said. “Another group flew from Vienna, and Prague. … Yes, it was crazy [the amount of people traveling to Bergen].

“What surprised me a lot were the Norwegian fans. It was nice that they also cheered for us, and that’s crazy. They are so happy I am here, and I also really appreciate that from Norway.”

When the television signal on the course briefly vanished at 4km to race, the fixed camera focused on the finishing straight forced viewers to take note of the crowd size. It appeared similar to Richmond, Virginia, when Sagan won his first title two years ago, but it clearly dwarfed the one last year when the peloton raced in the Qatari desert. Sagan said he was sorry to deprive Kristoff the home win and what would have been the cherry on Bergen’s cake.

“For sure it was a great atmosphere,” Kristoff added. “You expect a lot of people, you’ve probably already seen a lot of Norwegians at the Tour de France. I think the whole city and a lot of people from all around the country came here to celebrate.”

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