Claiming the most pro wins of any rider so far this year — 18 to date — Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) headlines the start list at the Arctic Race of Norway, August 13-16. The race has a possibility to finish in a bunch sprint on three of the four stages, but a summit finish on stage 3 will most likely determine the general classification.
Stage 1 starts and finishes in Harstad and will most certainly end in a bunch sprint. At 213.5km, a rider must not only have a quick burst of speed, but also the endurance to put out the necessary power to win after that distance.
Kristoff may be the headline attraction, but there will be no shortage of sprinters toeing the start line in Norway. Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18), Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka), Yauheni Hutarovich (Bretagne-Séché Environnement), Bryan Coquard (Europcar) and the Italian duo from Lampre-Merida, Niccolò Bonifazio and Davide Cimolai, are all taking the start.
A rolling 162.5km stage on day two from Evenskjer to Setermoen should also see the fast-men battle for the stage win.
The riders for the general classification will come to the fore on stage 3, with the stage finishing atop a tough 3.7km climb that averages nearly eight percent. Rein Taaramaë (Astana), winner of the Vuelta a Burgos over the weekend, comes to Norway with good legs and will look to make his mark on the race.
Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) is a wildcard at this year’s race. He has the finishing speed to compete in the sprints, as evident by his fourth place finish on the Champs-Élysées at this year’s Tour de France, but he can also climb quite well. Boasson Hagen will definitely be a rider to watch, as time bonuses could decide who wins the general classification. A recent stage win at the Tour of Denmark shows he is on good form.
Other contenders for the general classification include, Michael Morkov (Tinkoff-Saxo) recent stage winner at the Tour of Denmark, Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka), Ramon Sinkeldam (Giant-Alpecin), and IInur Zakarin (Katusha), winner of the Tour de Romandie earlier in the year.
The general classification may still be tight after the stage 3 summit finish, and a tricky finale on the fourth stage could decide who pulls on the blue leader’s jersey as the winner. A tough climb just over 2km in length and averaging six percent summits a mere 5.5km from the finish. A gap over the climb could spell victory, as a fast downhill to the finish in the town of Narvik, also where the stage starts, will make it difficult to bring a rider back.
Teams and leaders
MTN-Qhubeka: Boasson Hagen (N), Bos (Nl), Ciolek (G), Meintjes (SA)
Bora-Argon 18: Bennett (Irl), Voss (G)
Team Giant-Alpecin : Sinkeldam (Nl), Hupond (F)
Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise: Jens Wallays (Bel)
Cult Energy: Gerdemann (G), Wegmann (G), Downing (GB)
BMC Racing: Dillier (Swi), Hermans (B)
Novo Nordisk: Peron (I)
UnitedHealthcare: Förster (G)
Bretagne-Séché Environnement: Hivert (F), Hutarovich (Blr)
Europcar: Coquard (F)
Cofidis: Ahlstrand (S), Petit (F)
Lampre-Merida: Cimolai (I), Bonifazio (I), Serpa (Col)
Team Coop-Øster Hus: Galta (N); Jensen (N)
FixIT.no: Eidsheim (N)
Frøy-Bianchi: Andersen (N)
Joker: Laengen (N), Hoem (N), Eiking (N)
Ringeriks-Kraft: Fløtten (N)
Sparebanken Sør: Vangstad (N)
Astana: Taaramäe (Est), Kangert (Est)
Katusha : Kristoff (N), Byström (N), Zakarin (Rus), Haller (A)
Tinkoff-Saxo : Mørkøv (Dk), Zaugg (Swi)
IAM Cycling : Frank (Swi), Elmiger (Swi), Clement (Nl), Enger (N)