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After a dramatic stage where several attacks made Katusha lose control, Kragh, Txurruka and Olsson escaped from a strong breakaway on the final climb and it was the Dane who won the sprint to take the lead in the Tour des Fjords

Photo: TREFOR - Blue Water








30.05.2015 @ 18:56 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After three consecutive victories for Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), it was a Danish continental rider who broke the dominance of the Norwegian in the Tour des Fjords. After several attacks had made Katusha lose control, Søren Kragh Andersen, Michael Olsson (Trefor) and Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) attacked out of a strong front group before the Dane beat his companions in a sprint to take both the stage win and the overall lead on the fourth day of racing.


After three dominant victories for Alexander Kristoff, people had started to ask whether the local hero would be able to make it a clean sweep of the five stages in the Tour des Fjords. The race leader and defending champion didn’t refuse the suggestion but he always knew that today’s penultimate stage would be the biggest challenge.


That turned out to be true as the rival teams made use of the lumpy terrain to put the 6-rider Katusha team under control. In the end, they had to change tactics and so the Norwegian finds himself in 7th place as he heads into the final stage of the race.


Instead, it is Dane Søren Kragh Andersen who finds himself as the surprise leader of the race after the Dane took an impressive win of the hard penultimate stage. With strong support from teammate Michael Olsson, he emerged as the strongest from a strong front group of more than 15 riders.


Katusha had come under pressure when hard pace-setting by several teams had brought the early break back already on the big climb at the midpoint of the stage. Here lots of attacks were launched and the Russian team was unable to control the situation.


Hence, they changed strategy and sent Marco Haller into the group. The Austrian was the best-placed rider in the move and so Katusha didn’t have to do any work. As most teams were represented, the gap suddenly went out to 3 minutes before Orica-GreenEDGE and Katusha started to chase with 30km to go.


At this point, it was too late and even though they got closer to the front group, it was quickly apparent that the winner would come from the breakaway. With constant attacks, the situation constantly changed but as they started the final lap of the finishing circuit which included the small Åsveien climb, it was Kraft, Chris Anker Sørensen (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Mads Pedersen (Cult) who seemed to have made the difference.


That group was brought back at the bottom of the climb but Kragh refused to give up. He went full gas from the bottom and only Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) and his teammate Olsson could keep up with him.


Haller, Sørensen and Rasmus Guldhammer (Cult) formed a strong chase group but as Olsson sacrificed himself completely for his teammate, they never got back. In the sprint, Kragh was in a class of his own and even put one second into Txurruka in second while Olsson took third. Kristoff rolled across the line in 18th, 59 seconds too late.


With the win, Kragh also takes the overall lead in the race and now goes into the final stage with a 7-second advantage over Haller. The final day offers a tough start with two climbs before a flat section leads to the finishing circuit in Stavanger. The 21.3km circuit includes the steep Sørmarkbakken at the midpoint before the rider get to the slightly uphill finishing straight.


A lumpy course

After the first three Kristoff wins, the Tour des Fjords continued with one of its hardest stages which brought the riders over 166.8km from Kristoff’s home city of Stavanger to Sandnes. After a flat start, the riders tackled a categorized climb at the midpoint before the descended to a rolling section that led to the finishing city. Here they ended the race by doing three laps of a rough 9.6km finishing circuit that included the difficult Åsveien climb whose summit was located just 4.1km from the finish.


For the first time in this year’s race, the riders had beautiful weather when they gathered for the start but a few riders decided not to continue the race, including Oscar Landa who was a non-starter. After Preben van Hecke (Topsport) had punctured in the neutral zone, they got the race off to a very fast opening phase and as usual, there were lots of attacks in the beginning.


A strong group gets clear

Two riders briefly got clear while three riders made up a chase group but they were caught before they got to the first intermediate sprint. Here Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE) beat Michel Kreder (Roompot) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek) to score important bonus seconds.


Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff-Saxo), Laurent Didier (Trek), Danny van Poppel (Trek) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN) formed a very strong front grout that got a 12-second advantage over the peloton. Rasmus Quaade (Cult) and Sander Helven (Topsport) tried to bridge the gap but they never made the junction.


The break is formed

Dider dropped back to the peloton and moments later the front group was also back in the fold. After 23km of fast racing, it was all back together.


A small crash brought down a Trefor rider before Damien Howson (Orica-GreenEDGE), Stijn Devolder (Trek), Ronan van Zandbeek (Roompot) and Jeroen Meijers (Rabobank) attacked. The peloton took a natural break and so they quickly got an advantage of 4.20 at the point when Meijers beat Devolder and Howson in the second intermediate sprint.


Caja Rural accelerate

After 50km of racing, the gap had gone out to 6.50 and this was the signal for the peloton to up the pace. When Robert De Greef (De Rijke) stepped off his bike, the gap was only 4.30.


The Caja Rural team decided to try to make the race hard and they made a huge acceleration. As the gap had gone down to just 1.55, Cult and Topsport took over and it was now melting away.


The attacking starts

Howson beat Devolder and Meijers in the final intermediate sprint before the front group entered the final 75km with an advantage of just 30 seconds. As they hit the first categorized climb (2.7km, 7%), they were within sight and van Zandbeek tried to attack right from the bottom.


His three companions sat up before the attacking started in the peloton. Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) got clear and was briefly joined by Didier and Kristian Sbaragli (MTN-Qhubeka) before he again rode away. Meanwhile, the peloton was exploding to pieces.


A big group gets clear

Didier and Sbaragli were brought back and instead Chris Anker Sørensen (Tinkoff-Saxo) took off. Boasson Hagen set off in pursuit and those two riders were second and third at the top behind the lone Tcurruka.


The situation was completely uncontrollable and there were constant attacks until a very strong group had formed. Katusha decided to send Marco Haller into the move instead of focusing fully on Kristoff.


Roompot take control

The group was made up of Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEDGE), Rasmus Guldhammer, Mads Pedersen (Cult), Petter Theodorsen (Ringeriks), Haller, Sørensen, August Jensen (Coop), Angel Madrazo, Txurruka (Caja Rural), Kragh Andersen, Michael Olsson (Trefor), Alexander Wetterhall (Tre-Berg), Kristian Sbaragli (MTN-Qhubeka), Marco Minaard (Wanty), Filip Edisheim (FixIT)  and van Poppel. As the peloton slowed down, they quickly got an advantage of 2.15.


However, there was no cooperation and so the attacksing started again. Olsson was one of the riders to try but it was Pedersen who got clear. Eidsheim joined him while Roompot took control in the peloton as they entered the final 50km.


Orica-GreenEDGE and Katusha react

Roompot kept the gap at around 2.15 before they again stopped and so the gap went out to 3 minutes. Meanwhile, the front duo was brought back and so the attacking could start again.


With 33km to go, the gap was still 3 minutes and now Orica-GreenEDGE decided to take control. Adam Yates, Magnus Cort and Svein Tuft started to work and they were joined by Dmitry Kozontchuk and Sven Erik Bystrøm who started to chase for Katusha.


Txurruka attacks

Carl Fredrik Hagen (Sparebanken) tried to bridge the gap to the front group but he never made it across, Meanwhile, Pedersen again managed to escape from the front group.


As they hit Åsveien for the first time, Txurruka launched a big attack after Pedersen had been brought back. The group was splintering to pieces while lots of riders were getting fropped from the peloton.


Guldhammer attacks

With 18km to go, the gap was 2.40 despite the hard work by Tuft, Cort and Yates. However, it now started to pay off and when they entered the final 15km, the gap was 1.55.


Guldhammer was the next rider to attack as they hit the climb for the second and he was joined by Olsson , Sørensen and Madrazo. Later Txurruka also got back to the front, making it a strong 5-rider group.


Boasson Hagen on the offensive

In the peloton Yates made a big attack while Boasson Hagen took off in pursuit. The peloton completely exploded as Simon Spilak was now chasing hard for Katusha.


Boasson Hagen joined Yates on the descent but as Spilak got some assistance from Bystrøm, they brought the two attackers back. Meanwhile, they started to bring back riders from the big front group.


Kragh makes the decisive move

The Guldhammer quintet was brought back and instead Sørensen, Pedersen and Kragh attacked. Those three riders had a small advantage when they started the final lap with a 1.30 advantage over the peloton in which Yates, Spilak and Bystrøm were working hard.


Haller and Madrazo made it back to the front group but as they hit the bottom of the climb for the final time, it was back together in the front group. However, Kragh made a big attack right from the bottom and was joined by Txurruka and Olsson just as he reached the summit.


Impey takes off

In the peloton, it was Impey who put in a big attack while Boasson Hagen took off in pursuit. Spilak, Kristoff, Michael Valgren (Tinkoff-Saxo), Sam Oomen (Rabobank) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek) followed further back but they never made it across. Instead, a small regrouping too place on the descent.


However, no one was stopping Olsson, Kragh and Turruka who were speeding towards the finish, with Olsson sacrificing himself completely for his teammate. The Dane made a long sprint and Txurruka was no match to his speed. 3 second later Guldhammer beat Haller and Sørensen in the sprint for fourth from a three-rider chase group.



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