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Aug 14, 2015 – Irishman Sam Bennett of Bora-Argon 18 spoiled the Norwegian sprinters’ party as he brilliantly emerged as the fastest man after crossing the country’s largest army garrison in Setermoen alongside soldiers and rolling tanks. Third in the bunch gallop, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) retained the lead for one second ahead of the queen stage set to finish in the Alpine village of Målselv while Edvald Boasson Hagen suffered a lack of team-mates due to sicknesses in his MTN-Qhubeka team.
ASO/Kåre Dehlie Thorstad
126 riders took the start of stage 2 in Evenskjer where the most aggressive rider of the previous day Marius Hafsås of FixIT.no was invited to join the ice bathing festival on December 5. The race begun on the same mode as stage 1 ended up, with the duel of the Norwegian stars Alexander Kristoff and Edvald Boasson Hagen. Since the first intermediate sprint was located after only 12km of racing, no breakaway could take shape beforehand. Boasson Hagen won it ahead of Amaury Capiot (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Kristoff. The Norwegian champion was virtually two seconds down on his rival on GC but his MTN-Qhubeka squad was one rider down as Reinhardt Janse van Rensburg was a non-starter due to throat infection and fever. A second sick member of the South African team pulled out in the feed zone: Theo Bos.
Six riders finally managed to go clear after 60km of racing: Maxat Ayazbayev (Astana), Jean-Marc Bideau (Bretagne-Séché Environnement), Carl Fredrik Hagen (Sparebanken Sør), Torstein Traeen (Ringeriks-Kraft), Sindre Eid Hermansen (FixIT.no) and Krister Hagen (Coop-Øster Hus). Katusha started to chase them down when their advantage reached three minutes. IAM Cycling was the other very active team at the head of the peloton. The deficit of the bunch was under one minute when Bideau won the special reward of half a ton of salmon that will be delivered to him in France by the Norwegian salmon farmers as he won the last KOM price of the day at Lavangseidet with 45km to go. Bideau was rejoined after the climb by K. Hagen, Hermansen and Ayazbayev. The latter gave up with 35km to go. Two counter-attackers from the same team, Kristian Aasvold and Andreas Erland of Sparebanken Sør, tried to bridge the gap with the leading trio but didn’t make it.
Bideau hadn’t had enough fun at the front so he forged on with over 20km to go. It was all together again for the last 15km as Stef Clement did most of the work for IAM Cycling at the helm of the peloton. Several teams showed up at the head of the pack in the lead up to the inevitable bunch gallop: Giant-Alpecin for Ramon Sinkeldam, Bretagne-Séché Environnement for Daniel McLay, Cofidis for Michael van Staeyen… But Bora-Argon 18 was the most impressive besides the Katusha team left with only three helpers for Kristoff. A last minute acceleration by Tinkoff-Saxo racing for Slovakian sprinter Michael Kolar also disturbed the plans of the other Russian squad (Katusha). After beating the likes of Nacer Bouhanni, Peter Sagan and Tom Boonen on the cornice of Doha in the Tour of Qatar in February this year, Bennett proved at the age of 24 that he’s not afraid of challenging the world’s top sprinters.
Stage 2 winner Sam Bennett declared: “The guys did an absolutely amazing job today. In the end it was a little bit of a downhill. I can’t believe I lost my team-mate’s wheel. I was in such a bad position, I want to apologize to the guys for that because it’s my job to hold the wheel. I was looking coming in the final I just kept sprinting and going through gaps. In the end the door just opened at the right time and I was just able to take the win. It feels good to beat Alexander Kristoff on his home soil but regardless it feels good to win and I’m delighted. But it wasn’t a straight sprint against each other. He got boxed in. It was a really quick and dusty finale in the military camp, everyone came down the hill with a lot of speed. There were a lot of touching wheels and it was a bit scary. It’s really important for me to win here after the Tour de France. As a sprinter, if you want to be a good sprinter, you need to deliver results when you’re feeling good all through the season. I had terrible legs in the race today but with the support of the team, I was still able to get a result and that’s very important. If I have fantastic legs tomorrow I’ll try to hold hard but the way I was climbing today I don’t think I’ll be able to.”