Mathieu Van der Poel meets the expectations
August 16 th 2018 - 19:28 [GMT + 2]
Touted as the hot favourite for stage 1 and possibly for the overall classification, Dutch national champion Mathieu Van der Poel claimed his first victory at the Arctic Race of Norway, fresh from being the silver medallist at the European championship. He rushed to victory in the uphill sprint at Kirkenes, imposing himself ahead of Sergei Chernetski from Astana and Benjamin De Clercq of Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise.
113 riders started stage 1 of the sixth Arctic Race of Norway in Vadsø. Early skirmishes didn’t lead to any breakaway being formed in the first half hour of racing. Boris Vallée of Wanty-Groupe Gobert won the first intermediate sprint from a compact bunch at Vestre Jakobselv (km 15.5) ahead of Krists Neilands (Israel Cycling Academy) and Alberto Bettiol (BMC). With the help of a favourable wind, the peloton rode at a very high speed.
Barguil and Caruso in a 26-man leading group
A front group of 26 riders took shape after 34km. It included Damiano Caruso and Nicolas Roche (BMC), Tiago Machado and Maurits Lammertink (Katusha-Alpecin), Sébastien Delfosse and Tom Wirtgen (WB Aqua Protect-Veranclassic), Bert De Backer and Johan Le Bon (Vital Concept), Herman Dahl and Carl Fredrik Hagen (Joker-Icopal), Jacques Janse van Rensburg (Dimension Data), Daniil Fominhykh (Astana), Romain Cardis (Direct Energie), Christophe Laporte and Anders Skaarseth (Cofidis), Kevin Deltombe and Preben van Hecke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Marcel Meisen (Corendon-Circus), Warren Barguil, Romain Hardy and Sindre Lunke (Fortuneo-Samsic), Guillaume Martin (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Øyvind Lukkedal (Team Coop), Przemyslaw Kasperkiewicz (Delko Marseille-Provence-KTM), Miguel Byron (Holowesko-Citadel) and Sindre Kulset (Uno-X). Echelons were formed as several teams reacted from the peloton, which split in three pieces at some stage. Barguil showed his motivation by winning the first KOM price at Gandvikklubben, km 88, but also his intention to fight for the overall classification as he sprinted for the second intermediate sprint, coming second to Cardis while Roche settled for third. Barguil also took the second place at the second KOM at Buktfjelled (km 133), behind Lukkedal while Kulset has been dropped.
Skaarseth first at the last two climbs
After exceeding two minutes, the time gap between the leading group and the peloton led by Israel Cycling Academy and Rally went under one minute for the first time with 50km to go. Eight riders refused to being reeled in at the difference of their companions 34km before the finish: Machado, De Backer, Dahl, Fominhykh, Skaarseth, Deltombe, Lunke and Kasperkiewicz. Skaarseth outsprinted Lunke and Deltombe at the summit of Tusenvikfjellet, km 156. The Norwegian trainee from Cofidis also claimed the third intermediate sprint at Høybuktmoen airport and the fourth climbers’ price of to become the first King of the Mountains. Skaarseth and De Backer were the last two breakaway member to surrender after Bram Welten (Fortuneo-Samsic) crashed by himself in the middle of the bunch and last year’s runner up August Jensen (Israel Cycling Academy) was hampered by a mechanical with 8km to go.
Van der Poel unbeatable in the uphill sprint
As Skaarseth and De Backer were about to get caught at bell lap, Angelo Tulik (Direct Energie) and Markus Hoelgaard (Joker Icopal) took over at the front and forged on until they got reined in 300 metres before the line. That was the moment chosen by Mathieu Van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) to accelerate. The Dutchman quickly made a significant gap over his rivals. Russia’s Sergei Chernetski (Astana) and Belgium’s Benjamin De Clercq (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) rounded out the podium.