Ben Hermans caps it off
August 8 th 2021 - 18:47 [GMT + 2]
Ben Hermans controlled the last stage at perfection to take home the trophy of the Arctic Race of Norway he missed out six years ago. Odd Christian Eiking settled for second as he only gained two seconds, half of what he needed, over the race leader in the final uphill in Harstad where Philipp Walsleben outclassed Niki Terpstra for the stage win. Best young rider Victor Lafay rounded out the podium of the 8th edition of the northernmost bike race that showcased stunning landscapes once again.
Nine riders in the lead
106 riders took the start of the fourth and last stage of the 8th Arctic Race of Norway in Gratangen, for the grand finale in Harstad. 9 riders took off early: Erik Resell (Uno-X), Aimé De Gendt (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert), Niki Terpstra (TotalEnergies), Thomas Champion (Cofidis), Philipp Walsleben (Alpecin-Fenix), Alexandre Delettre and Michael Edouard Grosu (Delko), Ceriel Desal (Bingoal Pauwels Sauce WB) and Tore André Vabø (Team Coop). The standard gap allowed by Israel-Start Up-Nation at the helm was 2’30’’ – the time difference recorded at half way into the race.
Terpstra and Walsleben with 5km to go
The Euskaltel team was eager to bring the breakaway back as the peloton reached the finishing circuit in Harstad. The time difference was down to 1’ with 22km to go as Resell sped up the head of the race. Grosu got reeled in 20km before the finish, followed by Desal and Vabø. Champion lost contact with the front group with 14km to go. Walsleben upped the tempo with 10.5km remaining meanwhile Torjus Sleen (Uno-X) went in between and Israel-Start Up-Nation seized the reins of the bunch, after which the time difference went from 30’’ back to 1’. Henok Mulhubran (Qhubeka-NextHash) tried his luck with 6km to go. Terpstra and Walsleben formed a leading duo 5km before the end.
Eiking only two seconds ahead of Hermans
Terpstra and Walsleben had 25’’ lead with 2.5km to go and the final uphill yet to come. They managed to stay away and Walsleben, a former cyclo-cross rider, had what it takes to rush to the win up the hill against a Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix winner. Delettre managed to avoid the return of the peloton to finish third of stage 4. Eiking gave it all to finish with the same time as the Frenchman and two seconds ahead of the peloton that included his direct rivals Hermans and Lafay. In the end, the 35 year old from Belgium who already won stage races like the Tour of Oman and the Tour of Austria in the past concluded the Arctic Race of Norway with no hiccups, just as he wished after his victory in the queen stage to Målselv on Saturday.