Astana Qazaqstan’s festival in Hammerfest
August 18 th 2023 - 18:10 [GMT + 2]
Grim weather conditions, with bouts of rain and strong winds, were the main players in the second stage of the 10th edition of the Arctic Race of Norway. Uno-X Pro Cycling Team did its best to tear the race apart by launching echelons, yet the pack got back together with 40 kilometres to go and it all came down to an uphill sprint in Hammerfest. It was there that Astana Qazaqstan executed a perfectly timed sprint to score a one-two with Italian riders Michele Gazzoli and Christian Scaroni, while Cofidis’ Jonathan Lastra completed the stage podium. The Midnight Sun jersey that distinguishes the GC leader is now on the shoulders of Noah Hobbs (Groupama-FDJ Continental), who was fast and wise enough to claim five bonus seconds in the intermediate sprints spread over the stage in order to dethrone Team dsm-firmenich’s Alberto Dainese.
106 riders took the start in second stage of the 2023 Arctic Race of Norway, held between Alta and Hammerfest over 153,4 kilometres, at 14:25. As the red flag dropped, six riders went on the attack to create the day’s first breakaway: Peder Antoni Gravas (Norwegian National Team), Gianmarco Garofoli (Astana Qazaqstan), Johan Ravnoy (Team Coop-Repsol), Camilo Gomez (Trinity Racing Team), Ronan Augé (Groupama-FDJ Continental) and Vincent van Hemelen (Flanders-Baloise). The latter was sporting the Peacock jersey and immediately took on the duty of collecting points for the Mountains classification in order to keep it for another day, cresting in first position both the Raipas Summit (KOM, km 9,7) and the Sarves Summit (Super KOM, km 28,2). Meanwhile, Augé led the way through Milstrand (IS, km 19,7).
Wind creates chaos
Van Hemelen was second to Ravnoy atop the Stokkedalen Summit (KOM, km 42,4), where the breakaway recorded a gap of 4’10” on its favor over the peloton. Said gap would immediately drop down to nothing as racing sped up behind due to the possibility of echelons that did indeed materialize as the riders hit a long, straight stretch of road with 92 kilometres to go. A group of 30 riders went clear in a skirmish led by Uno-X and and echoed by Jayco-AlUla and Team dsm-firmenich, reeling in the break 10 kilometres later. A change of the direction of the course meant the sidewind turned into headwind, thus enabling several groups to bridge back to the head of the race with 40 kilometres left to race, just ahead of the intermediate sprint in Kvalsund (IS, km 118,2) on which Andre Drege (Coop-Repsol) took three bonus seconds ahead of Noah Hobbs (Groupama-FDJ Continental) and Kevin Vermaerke (Team dsm-firmenich), who in turn collected 2” and 1”.
Hobbs takes the Midnight Sun jersey
The peloton was held back by the wind in the final kilometres. Hobbs came first across Akkarfjord (IS, km 142,3), claiming three bonus seconds that would enable him to become GC leader after the stage, as most of the other riders bid their time waiting for the uphill finish in Hammerfest. The road started to rise with 1,7 kilometres to go. Groupama-FDJ Continental, Jayco-AlUla and Flanders-Baloise drove the run in to the finish before Astana Qazaqstan took the win by storm, with Christian Scaroni leading out Michele Gazzoli for an outstanding one-two.