Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) won the opening stage of the Arctic Race of Norway, John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) was 2nd in the reduced group sprint and Danny van Poppel (Team Sky) secured 3rd position at the line. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka had Youcef Reguigui in the mix and our Algerian would be our best placed rider in 19th.
Starting in Fauske, the riders had to complete 180km today before finishing in Rognan. The main feature of the stage was the 8.7km category 1 climb that topped out with just 18km to go. While the average gradient was not all that severe at just 3.5%, the length of the climb and it’s position so late in the race meant it would certainly play a role.
7 riders got away early on in the day and they were able to build a lead of just over 6-minutes on the peloton. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka did not have representation in the move and so together with Team Katusha and Giant-Alpecin our African Team contributed to the pace setting throughout the stage. Matt Brammeier was our rider doing the lion’s share of the work at the head of the peloton.
Coming into the base of the climb, the break only had 2’30” on the peloton and it was certain that they would be caught before the finish. Our African Team were riding to keep Reguigui well placed before the climb and Tyler Farrar and Johann van Zyl were doing a sterling job in this regard. BMC Racing and Katusha made the race as hard as possible on the climb but still just over 80 riders made the front group.
It was a fast and technical run down to the finish in Rognan and Reguigui was in the mix during the sprint finish. Trek-Segafredo seemed to have the best leadout but in the end it was Kristoff who triumphed. Reguigui was our best placed in 19th and unfortunately our Algerian was involved in a big crash just after the line. Thankfully though, it would just be a bit of road rash and he will be able to start tomorrow. Jay Thomson and Van Zyl both finished with the front group for our African Team.
Matt Brammeier – Rider
It wan’t too bad of a day and I was feeling quite good. The gap went out pretty big and we had to commit to the chase if we hoped to get anything out of the day. I think I did a pretty good job, we pulled the group to around 2 minutes from the break by the start of the climb. Youcef didn’t quite have the legs in the end to get the result which was a bit of a shame after a long day in the front but that’s how bike racing goes.
After Matt’s efforts today the Arctic Race of Norway selected him as a candidate to win the stage 1 Viking Jersey, you can vote for Matt by liking this Facebook image: Matt Brammeier Viking