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t-72

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Arctic Race of Norway 2021
« on: August 03, 2021, 23:26 »
WELCOME TO HOLLYWOOD!  :D



This week, the more regional races are lighting up on the European cycling calendar. As a regular contributing mountain-monkey, I will try to guide you through the Arctic Race of  Norway. I will present the stages first and then discuss the participants later, as they are largely unconfirmed and unknown beyond team names, just a few days before the start. I speculate wildly that this may be caused by COVID-related country entry policy challenges but no such statements have been made. It is however unusual to be more or less at the start line in this race and the only confirmed participants are riders from two Norwegian teams. This is the well organized, smoothly run and AsO supported Arctic race, not the sometimes caotic and wrong-way-into-the-tunnel decided the parcours the week before the start Tour des Fjords, so I consider it an unusual scenario.

EDIT: Thankfully, after a 1 day delay as I fell asleep on the keybord 3 times last evening, we now have the start list!
Let's assume that in the end every team makes it into *no wiith all the intended riders and staff, in time for the start of the first stage.

The stages are mostly a mix of some of the best stages from the better editions of the race (namely the first and second edition one), but there is something a bit unusual and that is *fi:


1. Tromsø-Tromsø 124 km, flat transport and hilly finish
2.  Nordkjosbotn-Kilpisjärvi, 177.6 km, flat but it goes high up into the mountain nevertheless
3. Finnses-Målselv, 184.5 km, almost a  medium montagna stage finish.
4. Gratangen-Harstad 163, 3 km - this is the same hilly Harstad finish that was used for the first stage of the Arctic Race #1.

The long awaited start list:

My favorites for the GC:
***  #unox Markus Hoelgaard
**    #arkea Warren Barguil, #israel Ben Hermans
*      #total Cristian Rodriguez, #delko Eduard Prades, #wanty Odd Christian Eiking
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  • « Last Edit: August 04, 2021, 21:24 by t-72, Reason: removing empty lines »

    t-72

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    Re: Arctic Race of Norway 2021
    « Reply #1 on: August 04, 2021, 21:44 »
    The jerseys (seems like there is no salmon this year?) and the trophy (not quite the senza fine but definetly one of those really worth fighting for. It is actually a cycling wheel molded into one of the symbols of arctic Norway, the north Cape monument which, can be found on the north cape plateau). Or the North Cape monument molded into a cycling wheel, whatever!

    https://twitter.com/ArcticRaceofN/status/1422949379556712455

    Another short fact worth noticing - yesterday the Uno-X CEO spoke about the importance of the "home races" and that offers some insight into the economy side of running a cycling team. According to him, Arctic Race, PostNord Danmark Rundt and Tour of Norway creates so much value in terms of publicity for the company in their home market it pays for the operation of the cycling team, for 1 full year, in 1 month of racing. They are in it for the money. In other words, for most other teams this race is a bit off-axis, a bike race in different and wonderful nature, and results are not as important as in the races earlier in the year. For Uno-x #unox and for COOP #coop it is a different thing, it is one of their most important races of the year, the moneymaker of the team.

    (This is why #unox Markus Hoelgaard is not to be overlooked for the GC).


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  • t-72

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    Re: Arctic Race of Norway 2021
    « Reply #2 on: August 04, 2021, 22:36 »
    First stage is on tomorrow, and it is Tromsø-Tromsø consisting of a long loop around the southern part of the Pac-man shaped island of Kvaløya (3rd largest island of Norway[1]), followed by short local laps on southern part of Tromsø's main island, Tromsø. 

    The attached profile is a shambles (it is all wrong on the y-axis)


    The map is better.


    It appears the finale is identical to when Kristoff won the final stage of edition #1 by catching Hushovd in the final.

    To win it you need tobe the puncheur and  push hard on the final climb in the last lap, up Holtbakken,  and avoid getting caught on the descent or in the final flat km to the finish line. It is the Hushovd approach. ALternatively, you can do the Kristoff and catch up with the punchers on the final km and just finish them off with something more like a sprint from a small group.

    My favorites:
    *** #unox Markus Hoelgaard
    ** *no Andreas Leknessund (he is the home boy, from Tromsø), *no Aleksander Kristoff (he knows how to do this)
    * #cofidis Victor Lafay, #ag2r Oliver Naesen, #wanty Odd Christian Eiking
    (but anything can happen, really, we need to watch this to see how it goes.)
     1. I didnæt notice but this race features the thirdl largest (Kvaløyam stage 1) second largest (Senja, stage 3) and largest island of Norway (Hinnøya, stage 4) in increasing order...
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  • t-72

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    Re: Arctic Race of Norway 2021
    « Reply #3 on: August 05, 2021, 17:01 »
    In the end, the first stage ended up rather predictable. The predictions:


    My favorites:
    *** #unox Markus Hoelgaard
    ** *no Andreas Leknessund (he is the home boy, from Tromsø), *no Aleksander Kristoff (he knows how to do this)
    * #cofidis Victor Lafay, #ag2r Oliver Naesen, #wanty Odd Christian Eiking

    The results  :angel
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  • Leadbelly

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    Re: Arctic Race of Norway 2021
    « Reply #4 on: August 05, 2021, 19:38 »
    The big question is, who won the Best Teammate for stage 1? and gets to wear the "Viking Jersey".

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  • LukasCPH

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    Re: Arctic Race of Norway 2021
    « Reply #5 on: August 05, 2021, 21:15 »
    The big question is, who won the Best Teammate for stage 1? and gets to wear the "Viking Jersey".
    The Best Teammate is ... a Champion:
    https://twitter.com/ArcticRaceofN/status/1423343153139130369

    And of course the salmon jersey is back too - first wearer is Gleb Brussenskiy:
    https://twitter.com/ArcticRaceofN/status/1423327945590853632
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    t-72

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    Re: Arctic Race of Norway 2021
    « Reply #6 on: August 05, 2021, 23:15 »
    Tomorrow's stage, from Nordkjosbotn and in a loop into the region known as Innlandet (confusingly a souther norway county was given the same name a few years ago) back donw the Tamok valley to - almost -  Nordkjosbotn again, along the coast to Skibotn and up the long Skibotn valley in a looong false flattish uphill drag.

    What was that part about Hollywood, will that be revealed in the stage presentation tonight?




    2.  Nordkjosbotn-Kilpisjärvi, 177.6 km


    Kilpisjärvi is perhaps the smallest "finish town" ever in a cycling race. It is a Finnish border control outpost, cafeteria and souvenir shop just over the Fennoscandian "continental divide" actually close to the 3-state border point between *no, *fi. *se.  It is also close to the tallest mountain of Finland, which is Halti, which is actually - in Norway  :S. I am a bit disappointed they are not using the road from Manndalen to Halti (steep gravel climb to a hydropower dam) instead of the rather long boring drag up Skibotndalen. The landscape is great but the cycling, I think, meh....

     

     At a point 4/5 up the valley, where the landscape opens up a little, the parcours will pass an area called Helligskogen. There is an abandoned army camp and it was  used as the base for a film recording by some almost famous Sami film-makers (once nominated for Oscar if i recall).  Helligskogen translates directly to ...wait for it.... Hollywood!   
    This stage will either break up in crosswinds between Helligskogen and Kilpis or it will be a fast sprint finish with downhill in the LEADOUT train track from the border to Kilpis. high probability for some leadout drama.

    Favorites:
    ***** *no Aleksander Kristoff
    * anyone else that can get in a breakaway and stay away
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  • Leadbelly

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    Re: Arctic Race of Norway 2021
    « Reply #7 on: August 06, 2021, 20:45 »
    https://twitter.com/ArcticRaceofN/status/1423692988329365505

    Where's a viking emoticon when you need it :viking
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  • t-72

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    Re: Arctic Race of Norway 2021
    « Reply #8 on: August 07, 2021, 10:42 »
    Sorry about late results update. As predicted, stage 2 ended in a bunch sprint, but Kristoff didn´t win :o#bora Martin Laas came from behind more than a few riders, with perfect timing and superior speed he passes Kristoff with just a few meters to the line. As a rider I honestly only knew by name from before, and I certainly wasn´t aware of his capacity: I was quite surprised to see such a textbook headwind sprint.  :cool

    Apparently #bora Bora worked hard to put him there too, half the team came home late after being actively involved in closing the gap to the strong breakaway led by #ag2r Oliver Naesen but featuring also #fenix Jimmy Janssens and #coop Fredrik Dversnes, who gets a day in the salmon jersey for his efforts. (When I say led by Naesen it is based on reports back to the Coop team car about how he was bossing the less experienced riders around.) Also noticed that #bora Rüdiger Selig is another former Kristoff teammate delivering excellent leadouts after leaving the team  :-x

    Sad point of the day was Christian Rodrigez of #total Total, one of the GC favorites, DNF after falling on a straight road - possibly caused by bumpy conditions but more likely some rider´s lack of attention.  There was a lot of riders involved in the crash, half the Total team seemed to be down and 2 others also left the race injured (Karel Vacek #qhubeka, and some B&B rider).

    Personally I found the 100 kilometers of sleeper stage coverage wonderful, I recommend watching it if you don´t care about the sport ;)
     :D (I am of course biased after living in this part of the country for 5 years).  :D

    The results:



     
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  • « Last Edit: August 08, 2021, 10:20 by LukasCPH »

    t-72

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    Re: Arctic Race of Norway 2021
    « Reply #9 on: August 07, 2021, 12:01 »
    Coming up today, the GC may be decided on the «mountain top finish stage» (but often it is not, was the climb isn´t that long and the time gaps may still be relatively modest.

    https://twitter.com/ArcticRaceofN/status/1423945763231395840

    This is, race -wise, a monoclimb stage. The climb up to Målselv Alpine village is imho nothing special and does not offer the spectacular location that we had at Storheia, in the Vesterålen Islands, for the 2019 edition. There, we saw #arkea Warren Barguil and #wanty Odd Christian Eiking had a very enjoyable battle (for the rest of us) for stage win in a truly beautiful location, it was a spectacular stage.
    This time, we may have a re-run for the stage win, as they are both here and both have tagged this stage as the one that suite them best. Total´s Christian Rodriguez would be another candidate but he is out of the race after crashing yesterday. Astana´s #astana Stefan de Bod would be the most southern winner of this northerly race conceivable, but I can´t see any better things to do if you are Astana, so he might as well give it a go.

     #unox Torstein Træen and Torjus Sleen are, at their best, climbers that might have had a good chance of a stage win, but it is most likely they will ride fully for the support of Markus Hoelgaard and his GC win ambitions. Having mentioned that, without the best climbers - there´s no Richard Carapaz, no Tadej Pogacar and no Primoz Roglic on the start line (Vingegaard is supposedly coming to Norway but not for this race) - it is not inconcievable that Hoelgaard can actually take the stage. He is not a thoroughbred climber, but sometimes he handles uphill surprisingly well, and this time he will have gold chair support. If he makes it to the 500m mark in the front group, he will have more punch for the finish than any of the others.

    Favorites:
    ***
    ** #wanty Eiking, #arkea Barguil,
    * #unox Hoelgaard, #astana de Bod, *no Leknessund
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  • Leadbelly

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    Re: Arctic Race of Norway 2021
    « Reply #10 on: August 07, 2021, 19:40 »
    The predictions got off to an excellent start on stage 1, but since then......  :-x :P

    -------------------------------------

    https://twitter.com/ArcticRaceofN/status/1424060670413361155
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  • t-72

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    Re: Arctic Race of Norway 2021
    « Reply #11 on: August 08, 2021, 10:16 »
    Yesterday's stage: same finish, different team, 6 years older rider - #israel Israel Start-up Nation's Ben Hermans gives everyone a lesson on how to win the Målselv stage in the Arctic Race. In fact he is the only winner on this climb, so far  :)

    Worth noticing the victory was as much tactical as a show of strength. Early on the climb, ISN #israel put a domestique in front of what remained of the peloton and told him to pedal hard, in fact too hard for even Ben Hermans to follow.  This had the effect of putting a few riders over their limit early, most notably #unox Hoelgaard, who was dropped out of contention for following too hard too long. Other, stronger climbers, such as #arkea Barguil followed,  but suffered and maybe paid with quite a bit of the explosivity they usually have in their legs. #wanty Eiking and #cofidis Lafay pulled clear of the rest of the peloton with Hermans and followed him to the finish line, but Eiking couldn't put in his finish line surge as strong as he usually does, maybe because of the high speed set by ISN lower on the climb - and came up a few dm's short, had to sette for 2nd position with Lafay unable to pass either of the two older riders, stuck in 3rd position.


    The GC is now primarily between these 3 riders
    with only a few seconds in time gap required to defeat Hermans. A few outsiders might also have a go with an attempt at a longer range attack today. They will need to win by some 15 seconds to make the podium.
    Also notable: the only team with more than one rider in top 10 is the COOP #coop continental team  :S



    Today's course start in Gratangen and will feature an early category 1 climb up Gratangsbotn where we probably will see #coop Fredrik Dversnes going all in for the salmon. Later they will cruise around the fjord to Harstad for the final laps where the stage and GC will be decided. Based on experience (same finish as stage #1 edition #1), it will be rather explosive finish with a few steep hills baked in,  which can suit a puncheur more than a pure sprinter.   I don't think the time gaps are going to be large, so my basic assumption is that #israel Hermans will be able to defend his lead and take home the midnight sun jersey. (I guess that doesn't happen to often with that team?)
    Main challenger Eiking will need to create gaps across the small hills in Harstad and expand them on the flat. Maybe possible if he goes with someone that has the ambition of a stage win, and that could be #unox Hoelgaard again.


    (the profile is all wrong, sea level isn't at 200 m ... but the main thing here are the sawtooths in the finale)


    (your correspondent has been sentenced to a slow self-powered sunday bike ride, as weather seems doable for most of the day, so I may not be able to watch this live. enjoy!)


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  • « Last Edit: August 08, 2021, 10:26 by LukasCPH »

    LukasCPH

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    Re: Arctic Race of Norway 2021
    « Reply #12 on: August 08, 2021, 10:28 »
    I don't think the time gaps are going to be large, so my basic assumption is that #israel Hermans will be able to defend his lead and take home the midnight sun jersey. (I guess that doesn't happen to often with that team?)
    Main challenger Eiking will need to create gaps across the small hills in Harstad and expand them on the flat. Maybe possible if he goes with someone that has the ambition of a stage win, and that could be #unox Hoelgaard again.
    With Eiking only 4" off Hermans, the bonus seconds can play a role too. The first sprint in Laberg will probably go to the breakaway (or maybe not if #iwg go all-in to bring it back together after the first mountain?), but the two sprints in Harstad (plus obviously the finish) should be within reach.
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  • t-72

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    Re: Arctic Race of Norway 2021
    « Reply #13 on: August 08, 2021, 10:51 »
    With Eiking only 4" off Hermans, the bonus seconds can play a role too. The first sprint in Laberg will probably go to the breakaway (or maybe not if #iwg go all-in to bring it back together after the first mountain?), but the two sprints in Harstad (plus obviously the finish) should be within reach.

    Bonus seconds can play a role, but that is a team question not a rider vs rider question. ISN #israel Ben Hernans will probably have both Rudy Barbier and Rick Zabel at his disposal and they should be able to block bonus seconds for Eiking. Eiking is a climber with a fast finish, but yesterday he didn't look that fast (as in too much training lately?)
    Israel, on the other hand, are chasing one of this season's possible big victories and I don't think they are going to let this one go.
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  • Leadbelly

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    Re: Arctic Race of Norway 2021
    « Reply #14 on: August 08, 2021, 19:24 »
    I haven't seen any footage yet, but going by the results Hermans owes Delettre (who he?) a beer or two.
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  • t-72

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    Re: Arctic Race of Norway 2021
    « Reply #15 on: August 08, 2021, 22:14 »
    6 years ago, Ben Hermans lost the race on the last day to Rein Taaramäe after suffering a technical problem on the local laps in Narvik on the final stage of the Arctic race. Today he got it back, and no one can argue that it was not a well deserved win, even if it was by the smallest of margins x2 (both on the stage 3 climb to Målselv Fjellandsby and today's stage to Harstad). The only thing unjust about it was Intermarché #wanty not having Taaramäe himself here, but being represented by his teammate, Eiking instead.

    I just finished watching the recording and i didn't hang on until the post-race interviews, but to me I think there was 2 reasons why #wanty Inetermarché didn't win it this time:
    1. Eiking himself missing some explosivity - probably moderately overtrained. I am very much sure I have seen him fo an uphill finish in a much more zippy style. He did ride a very good race, but he wasn't at his best. For two days in a row, he only needed catch one more rider with just a few meters (or less!) to take home the midnight sun. It is like two matchballs in a vollley game, failed!
    2. The team tactics: Putting de Gent in the breakaway today was a good move, but waiting to long to let him fall back and help Eiking wasn't. Then again, just how much that would have helped, is debatable as  Eiking's legs seemed to limit the performance ref #1 above.

    In the end, I guess everyone agreed it was a fair race and #israel Ben Hermans being a very worthy winner. He also comes across as a very soft-spoken and humble man, very thankful to his team and others that have helped him. I am sure he gained a lot of respect for what he achieved and the way that he did it.


     
    If any of you are watching the international edition I guess you are missing out on all the spectator roadside attractions which TV2 serve up as comic relief. With such nice weather the racing itself almost becomes a sideshow as locals seem to compete in serving strawberries (the further north you grow them the better they taste), cake (the Kvæfjord cake, from the area just outside Harstad that the race passed through today is sort of a national treasure), more strawberries and more cake to Dag Otto Lauritzen and his camera crew while wearing something stupid. The Harstad area is one of the more densely populated areas of N Norway but there are still not that many people. All the people you see along the roadside waving flags are actually the effect of the very succesful sport events; they become larger than the sport itself because "everyone" gets involved. There must be few races where such a large percentage of the local population turns out at the roadside to cheer and have fun together.

    I remember back when this race was a cray idea. It was presented in the regional newspapers a couple of years before they actually managed to get it starting. To succeed against such odds reflects lots of thorough organizational work done well, day after day.  Chapeau (lue av!) also  to the organizers.
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  • « Last Edit: August 09, 2021, 07:31 by t-72 »

    LukasCPH

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    Re: Arctic Race of Norway 2021
    « Reply #16 on: August 09, 2021, 14:37 »
    I haven't seen any footage yet, but going by the results Hermans owes Delettre (who he?) a beer or two.
    Having seen the footage, I absolutely agree. The commentators do too, said exactly the same. :cool
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