The Norwegians had plenty to cheer about in stage 1 of the Arctic Race of Norway as countrymen Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) went one-two on Thursday in Harstad. Katusha took control going into the final kilometer, with Marco Haller delivering the final lead-out. However, Boasson Hagen infiltrated the front of the sprint and nearly tangled with the Austrian champ as he pulled off to cut Kristoff loose. Boasson Hagen, the Norwegian champ, even took a hand off the bars momentarily, but regardless, it was all Kristoff, driving to the line to win by a couple bike-lengths at the end of the 210km stage.
“In the sprint we might have gone a bit too early, and Kristoff still had one more man,” said Boasson Hagen. “I kind of got blocked a bit behind Haller, though, which wasn’t really ideal on that type of finish. I was feeling good though, the team were perfect, and so I am focused on the next stages.”
After 14km of racing, seven riders broke away from the field: Maxime Cam (Bretagne-Séché Environnement), Jens Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Max Kørner (Ringeriks-Kraft), Marius Hafsås (FixIT.no), Vegard Stake Laengen (Joker), Håvard Blikra (Coop-Øster Hus), and Jon Soeveras Breivold (Frøy-Bianchi). They reached an advantage of seven minutes over the peloton at the first intermediate sprint located at Evenes airport in the entrance of the county of Nordland, 40 kilometers in. Blikra took the sprint ahead of Stake Laengen and Cam. Halfway into the race, the gap was down to 4:30.
With 66km to go, Blikra took another intermediate sprint, but the time gap was reduced to 2:30 as Katusha, Lampre-Merida, and Europcar, pulled for their respective sprinters. Stake Laengen attacked solo with nine kilometers left, but he was soon caught by the field.
Kristoff’s win on Thursday extended his tally of victories to 19 this year — he has the most wins of any pro cyclist to date this season, and now he sits in the overall lead at his home race.
“I didn’t win the whole summer so it was about time,” he said. “I’m glad I did here in the Arctic Race. Now I can relax a bit because I have a win.
“I was never leading the race last year so it’s cool to have this jersey. We’ll see how long I can keep it. Tomorrow it should be possible, but stage 3 is quite hard for me. I’m pretty sure I’ll lose it on stage 3, but you never know. I was expecting to win today. Tomorrow it’ll be the sprinters again.”
Stage 2 offers a rolling, 162.5km course from Evenskjer to Setermoen and will likely end in a sprint, as Kristoff predicts.