Info with one day to go
August 10 th 2022 - 20:20 [GMT + 2]
- Everything is set for the 9th edition of the Arctic Race of Norway to begin tomorrow in Mo i Rana. The event will award its final winner a brand-new trophy designed by local artist Geir Samuelsen.
- The first two stages seem designed for sprint finishes on which Team BikeExchange-Jayco’s Dylan Groenwegen has been touted by TotalEnergies’ Edvald Boasson Hagen as the main favorite… but it won’t be an easy ride for the Dutch rider, as Race Director Yannick Talabardon points out the expected weather conditions will make the race hard.
- The GC battle is quite open. Israel-PremierTech’s Simon Clarke is one of the main candidates as he makes his debut on this race fresh off winning a stage in the Tour de France. He will have to fend off some young Norwegian talents like Team DSM’s Andreas Leknessund and Uno-X Pro Cycling Team’s Tobias Halland Johannessen.
A reimagined trophy to celebrate the world’s northernmost bike race
Many elements have been renovated for this ninth edition of the Arctic Race of Norway, that will be entirely held below the Arctic Circle for the first time on its history. “We are very happy to share this event with other parts of Norway,” says the Arctic Race’s Managing Director, Knut-Eirik Dybdal. “Next year we will commemorate the tenth edition of the race with an unprecedent celebration to remark that this is the northernmost bike race in the world.” This claim is also observed on the race’s new trophy for the overall winner, created by Norwegian artist Geir Samuelsen. “We have kept some elements from the previous trophy, such as the references to the Arctic Circle and the North Cape, and we have added some new ones like a display of some iconic mountains and fjords of our landscape on its top.” Bringing home this beautiful piece of art will be an extra motivation for the riders to fight for victory this week.
The expert and the (late) newbie
One other detail that has changed from last year’s edition is the pattern of the KOM jersey, from salmon to peacock. Will a rider who has brought home the salmon jersey twice, Human Powered Health’s August Jensen, fight for the first-ever peacock jersey? “I actually do enjoy salmon more than peacock on the dinner table…”, he chuckles, “but the jersey is really cool. I won’t be aiming for it, though, as I’m looking to the sprint finishes this time.” Jensen hails from Bodø, host of the maiden stage of the Arctic Race of Norway back in 2013, and is the rider who has taken part in most editions of this event to date – as many as seven. “It’s my favorite race of the year,” he asserts as he recalls his 2017 stage win and 2nd place on the final GC. At the other end of the standings, we find a remarkable debutant in Israel-Premier Tech’s Simon Clarke, who is entering this event for the first time at 36 years of age. “It’s one of the few races in the cycling calendar I haven’t raced in my career so far,” he claims, “and everyone tells me this is a beautiful race to do.” The Australian comes off a successful Tour de France, on which he won a stage before pulling out because of Covid-19. “I hope I still have some shape from the Tour left in my legs. It’s going to be an unpredictable race. The stages that are not necessarily marked as GC days may end up mixing things up and being decisive.”
A young Norwegian talent to take over from Thor Hushovd?
Only one out of the eight editions of the Arctic Race of Norway held to date has seen a local rider triumph. It was on the first one, back in 2013, that current Race Ambassador and former World Champion Thor Hushovd claimed victory. Since then, four Norwegian cyclists have been runner-ups on the final GC – but no Midnight Sun jersey has been conquered for good. Amongst the Norwegian candidates for the final victory, we find two experienced contenders in Israel-Premier Tech’s Carl Fredrik Hagen and TotalEnergies’ Edvald Boasson Hagen. And there are some local young prospects, too. Andreas Leknessund is leading Team DSM’s bid after a pretty good performance in the Tour de France. “I’ve had a few easy weeks to recover and I frankly don’t know where I am at, but it’s been a good season for me so far and fighting for the GC should be a realistic goal.” Two Norwegian development teams, Team Coop and Uno-X, come with well-rounded squads. The 2022 Critérium du Dauphiné’s best young rider Tobias Halland Johannessen leads the latter. “To be racing on home soil is such a special feeling,” he says. “It doesn’t happen too often for us Norwegians, so this Arctic Race of Norway is a cool opportunity we look forward too. Whoever wants to win here will need a very strong team around him. Tomorrow, for instance, many things can happen along the way and it will be necessary to be near the front the whole time. At Uno-X we have more than one card to play, and I think that’s the best way to approach this race.”
The winning recipe for the Arctic Race of Norway
Rain showers over Mo i Rana forced the cancellation of some of the pre-race events this Wednesday, such as the team presentation and the media day. The weather forecast, cold and wet, will also have a say on how the competition unfolds over the next four days. “It’s going to make the race harder,” says Yannick Talabardon, technical director of the Arctic Race of Norway since its 2017 edition. As the head of the sporting side of the event, we ask him to plot what a cyclist should do to win this race. “First, he shouldn’t lose any time in the first two days, which are meant to be sprint stages. Then comes the uphill finish on Saturday, with some steep hills spilt over the route and a final climb which is relatively gentle when compared to the ones we had in previous years. The real moment to attack and win the race, though, is the final stage in Trondheim. It ends with four laps over a short circuit inside the city that features a very steep climb.” GC contenders: take your notes!
Dylan Groenewegen to lead mass sprints’ contention
Out of the four stages of this Arctic Race of Norway, two are deemed to end up with a mass sprint: the first in Mo i Rana and the second from Mosjøen to Brønnøysund. Although there are many fast men on the start list, TotalEnergies’ Edvald Boasson Hagen quickly comes up with a forecast: “Dylan Groenewegen is the favorite.” The Dutch rider from Team BikeExchange-Jayco was one of the most solid sprinters in the last Tour de France, with a stage win in Sønderborg and a second place in the Champs-Élysées as landmark performances. “I feel mentally fresh after enjoying some time off with my family at home,” Groenewegen says. “The goal here is to win a stage. I won’t have my normal lead-out train - just Amund Grondhal Jansen and Alex Konychev. On the other hand, we have three good climbers on very good shape to fight for the GC. We will help each other reach our aims.” Team DSM’s Cees Bol and Alpecin-Deceuninck’s Kristian Sbaragli will be Groenewegen’s main challengers in sprint finishes.