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Frustrated after missing out on the victory in the opening stage, Norwegian national champion Thor Hushovd (BMC Racing) won stage 2 of the inaugural Arctic Race of Norway, crossing the finish line in front of Belgian Tom Van Asbroeck (Topsport Vlaanderen) in a sprint finish.
With the stage win, Hushovd took the overall lead, three seconds ahead of stage 1 winner Kenny Van Hummel (Vacansoleil-DCM).
Stage 2 started and finished in the town of Svolvær. Six riders slipped away after 20km of racing: Russell Downing (NetApp-Endura), Sander Helven (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Edwin Wilson (Joker-Merida), Michael Olsson (People 4 you), Max Emil Korner (Ringeriks-Kraft) and August Jensen (Øster Hus-Ridley).
The peloton, led by Vacansoleil-DCM, kept the situation under control, with a maximum deficit of 2:40 halfway into the stage. Several teams combined at the front to control the gap, including Argos-Shimano, BMC and Team Plussbank.
Hushovd gave an indication of his strength when he followed an acceleration by Europcar’s Vincent Jérôme, who was later involved in a crash that affected KOM leader Lars-Petter Nordhaug (Belkin) with 13.5 kilometers to go. (Nordhaug injured his head and shoulder, but had no fractures, and will start on Saturday.)
At the front, Korner, Olsson and Downing refused to give up until they were finally caught 13km before the finish. At the 7km to go mark, Amund Grondal Jansen (Plussbank) tried his luck, as did Paul Martens (Belkin) three kilometers further, but a bunch sprint was inevitable.
BMC’s Adam Blythe delivered Hushovd in a perfect position. Norway’s cycling superstar took the command 200 meters before the finishing line and collected his sixth victory of the 2013 season.
“I was very determined to win today,” said Hushovd. “It means a lot to me to be a winner at a race that I have supported a lot from the start. This is the best bike race I’ve ever taken part in. Yesterday I missed out because of the positioning but I felt strong today. The final sprint was a bit of chaos, but I got an excellent lead out by Adam Blythe. When I got out of his wheel and I launched my sprint with 200 meters to go, I got the feeling of being unbeatable. In fact, nobody managed to pass me. This is fantastic. The support of the people here in the north of Norway is even bigger than I expected. The route today showed how beautiful this place is. It couldn’t be a better outcome for me. Now I hope to be able to keep the leader’s jersey till the end.”
Stage 3, on Saturday, is a 201km ride from Svolvaer to Stokmaknes. Between Svolvær and Stokmarknes the peloton will ride through a subsea tunnel towards the lowest climbing summit in the world — the five climbing points will be handed out at five meters above sea level. The race ends Sunday in Harstad.
Stage 2, top five
1. Thor Hushovd (BMC Racing), 156.5 km in 3:38:09.
2. Tom Van Asbroeck (Topsport Vlaanderen), same time
3. Marco Haller (Katusha), same time
4. Kenny Van Hummel (Vacansoleil), same time
5. Sondre Enger Holst (Plussbank), same time
General classification, after stage 2
1. Thor Hushovd (BMC Racing), 8:01:41
2. Kenny Van Hummel (Vacansoleil), at 0:03.
3. Sander Helven (Topsport Vlaanderen), at 0:04.
4. Tom Van Asbroeck (Topsport Vlaanderen) at 0:07.
5. Barry Markus (Vacansoleil), at 0:07.