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Kristoff Sprints For Superiority

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Aug 13, 2015 – Alexander Kristoff and Edvald Boasson Hagen are back in business. The two Norwegian cycling stars took part in the Tour de France but returned empty handed as they both made the top 5 four times without winning any stage. They turned the finale of stage 1 in a thrilling duel in which the Katusha rider outsprinted the national champion to score his nineteenth victory of the season and take the lead of the Arctic Race of Norway for the first time ever.

ASO/Kåre Dehlie Thorstad

130 riders took the start of stage 1 in the third edition of the Arctic Race of Norway. Seven of them, including five Norwegians, rode away from the peloton after 14 kilometres of racing: 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 (km 40). Blikra passed first on the line ahead of Stake Laengen and Cam. At half way into the race, the time difference was down to 4.30.

On the first crossing of the finish line back in Harstad with another 66km to be covered, the second intermediate sprint delivered the same result as the first one with Blikra preceding Stake Laengen and Cam. By then, the time gap was reduced to 2.30 as the teams of the sprinters, namely Katusha, Lampre-Merida and Europcar, pulled the peloton. Stake Laengen secured the first salmon jersey – and the salmon worth 10,000 NOK – after passing first atop Balteskardet (km 94) and second atop Kvæfjordeidet (km 155.5). He attacked with 15km to go. Among the seven breakaway riders, only Hafsås was able to come across and accompany him until the lanky climber from Team Joker rode away solo again 9km before the end.

As Stake Laengen was brought back inside 5km to go, Davide Malacarne (Astana) tried his luck but it was all together for the last two kilometers of racing. Reduced to five men prior to the start due to Anton Vorobyev’s ribs injury, Katusha positioned Kristoff at perfection at the bottom of the uphill finish. The Stavanger-based sprinter chose the right side of the road while Boasson Hagen was on the left. Kristoff powered to victory to lead the Arctic Race of Norway for the first as he missed out on the very first edition due to pneumonia and won stage 2 last year while Lars-Petter Nordhaug was still in the blue jersey after taking the epic inaugural stage to the North Cape.

Alexander Kristoff said: “I didn’t win the whole summer so it was about time. I’m glad I did here in the Arctic Race. Now I can relax a bit because I have a win. In a five-man team, it’s always difficult but today my guys did a great job even if we were one rider down. I was in a perfection position in the last kilometer. I was the strongest in the last climb to finish. I’m happy to pull it off. I’d rather have a stage win in the Tour de France but it’s good to be winning again. This is the first step of the preparation for the world championship. It couldn’t have been a better start of the Arctic Race of Norway. 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, so my rivals will be [Bryan] Coquard, MTN [Boasson Hagen], [Sam] Bennett, [Niccolo] Bonifazio, Sondre Holst Enger from IAM. There are many good sprinters here!”