The 3rd and Queen Stage of the Arctic Race of Norway saw Ben Hermans (BMC Racing) take top honours up the finishing climb to Malsev. Rein Taaramae (Astana) was 2nd and Mathias Frank (IAM Cycling) claimed 3rd place.
There were 6 attackers that went up the road and got some good exposure at nearly 7 minutes ahead of the peloton. With a tough 3.7km finishing climb though the GC favourites would not leave anything to chance and controlled the race for the entire 183km. Astana and IAM Cycling were the two teams that policed affairs all stage with BMC pitching in for the final 40km as well to ensure the break was caught.
With only 4 riders, MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung kept out of trouble in the safety of the pack, waiting for the final climb where we hoped Edvald Boasson Hagen could limit his losses to the climbers and retain a good GC placing. The climb was difficult at an average grade of 7.8% and it saw race leader Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) getting distanced on the lower slopes already. Edvald hung tough, always riding in the first 10 places as the climb started.
After his team did a mountain load of work all day, Taaramae attacked early and forced a 7 rider split, Eddy being the 7th rider. The Estonian attacked again with around 2km to go and got a gap. The leading pack splintered as they chased the lone leader. Hermans eventually bridged to Taaramae with 100m to go and attacked straightaway to win solo. Edvald rode within himself and Louis Meintjes was able to make contact with our Norwegian champ to pace him across the line, Louis in 7th and Eddy in 8th.
The gutsy performance by Edvald ensured he held on to 3rd place in the overall classification, 24″ down on Hermans, the new race leader with Taaramae in 2nd.
Louis Meintjes – Rider
The climb was very short and fast with a crazy run in. Edvald was really climbing well and I just tried to help him lose as little time as possible as he was pretty good on the GC. I am happy with how my legs are feeling before the Vuelta.
Alex Sans Vega – Sport Director
It was the only stage with a summit finish so it was all or nothing in the final. There was a strong headwind for most of the stage and all the big teams took it easy at the start and let the break of 6 go quickly. Astana, IAM and BMC rode tempo from the bunch and we just had to wait for the final climb. The plan was to try and lose as little as possible with Edvald, playing with the small advantage he already had on the GC. Ending the day 3rd on GC is a good result for us with such a hard climb.