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After race leader Hermans had a disastrous puncture, Dillier, Taaramae and Zakarin sprinted for the win on the final stage of the Arctic Race of Norway; Dillier won the stage and Taaramae took the overall victory

Photo: ©Tim De Waele/TDW Sport

ARCTIC RACE OF NORWAY

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ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM

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ILNUR ZAKARIN

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REIN TAARAMAE

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SILVAN DILLIER

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16.08.2015 @ 18:31 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Silvan Dillier took the biggest win of his career when he came out on top in the final stage of the Arctic Race of Norway but the day ended as a very mixed affair for his BMC team. After race leader and teammate Ben Hermans had suffered a puncture, the Swiss stayed with the best and finally won the three-rider sprint where he beat Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) and Rein Taaramae (Astana) who took the overall victory ahead of the BMC youngster.

 

With a second place in the GO Kanton Aargau, a third place in the Tour de Wallonie and most notably a gold medal from the World TTT Championships, Silvan Dillier had a remarkable first professional season in 2014. However, apart from his win in this year’s Swiss TT Championships, the elusive first pro victory always seemed to elude him.

 

It would always just be a matter of time before he would break the drought and today it all came to fruition for him when he came out on top on a hugely dramatic final day of the Arctic Race of Norway. A combination of very strong climbing legs and team tactics allowed him to sprint for the win from a three-rider group and here he narrowly managed to hold off Ilnur Zakarin.

 

However, there will be no big celebration in the BMC camp when they travel home from the northernmost bike race. Yesterday they seemed to be destined to win the race overall with Ben Hermans after they had managed to put three riders in the top 5 on the queen stage. Nonetheless, it was Rein Taaramae who ended the race as the overall winner while Hermans dropped to ninth after a very unfortunate day in the saddle.

 

The drama unfolded on the 10.5km finishing circuit which included a 2.3km climb of an average gradient of 6.6%. Four times up the climb was always going to give Hermans’ rivals a chance to do some damage and the scene was set for a great battle when they hit the climb for the first time with 35km to go.

 

At this point, a 6-rider break with Martin Elmiger (IAM), Robert Förster (Unitedhealthcare), Reidar Borgersen (Joker), Maxime Cam (Bretagne), Filip Eidsheim (FixIT), Gert Joeaar (Cofidis) and Ramon Sinkeldam (Giant-Alpecin) had an advantage of just 1.20 over the peloton which was led by Joker. As soon as the group hit the climb, it splintered as Förster was the first to get dropped before Sinkeldam also had to surrender.

 

In the peloton, Coop had taken control and they made the group explode to pieces. As they approached the summit Dylan Teuns took over for BMC and the gap was already down to 30 seconds at this point.

 

Eidheim and Joeaar were dropped before the front group reached the summit, leaving just three riders to press on with an advantage of 15 seconds. This is when disaster struck for Hermans as he suffered a puncture and even though his teammate Floris Gerts dropped back to assist him, he was on the defensive.

 

Of course Teuns stopped his pace-setting and this allowed riders to attack. Adrien Petit (Cofidis) and Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18) were among the riders to give it a try but only the latter managed to get clear.

 

A crash involved Bora-Arhon 18 GC rider Paul Voss who managed to rejoin the peloton but would drop out of FC contention. Meanwhile, Marco Haller took control for Katusha as the group didn’t slow down to wait for Hermans.

 

Bennett made it across to the front group before they reached the finish for the first time and he beat Elmiger and Cam in the second intermediate sprint at this point. Further back, Hermans made it back to the main group with 30km to go after he had had to leave Gerts behind and so Teuns went back to work.

 

The front group briefly split as Bennett and Borgersen distanced Elmiger and Cam on the descent but it came back together before they hit the climb again. Here Borgersen fell off the pace and was quickly brought back by Teuns who continued to ride on the front.

 

Katusha wanted to make the race hard and so Sergey Lagutin took over the pace-setting. His fast pace made the group explode even more and less than 1km from the top, he had brought the break back. This allowed August Jensen (Coop) to accelerate to win the OM sprint ahead of Bennett and Lagutin.

 

The key move was made when the riders hit the final kilometre that was slightly rising. Here Christian Mager (Cult) attacked and he was quickly joined by the Astana duo of Tanel Kangert and Taaramae, Zakarin, Michael Gogl (Tinkoff-Saxo), Audun Flotten (Ringeriks) and Dillier. As they crossed the finish line, Kangert was already working hard for his teammate while Bennett made a failed attempt to join them.

 

Teuns was leading the chase but the peloton had already been distanced by 15 seconds. Hermans had it take over on the climb when the youngster was dropped and he could do no more than keep the gap stable.

 

Things went wrong for Hermans when Mathias Frank (IAM) attacked just 1km from the summit. Sven Erik Bystrøm (Katusha), Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubea) and Antwan Tolhoek (Tinkoff-Saxo) joined him but Herman could not respond and just had to ride on the front of the 10-15 rider group that also included Alexander Kristoff (Katusha).

 

Mager and Flotten were the first riders to get dropped from the front group while Gogl and Kangert also had to surrender when the latter had finished his work. They dropped back to the chase group where Frank was working hard.

 

Hermans was losing ground quickly and had now given up. When Dillier beat Taaramae and Zakarin in the final intermediate sprint at the start of the final lap, he was already 35 seconds behind while the chase group was around 10 seconds ahead.

 

Kangert had bad luck to puncture out of the chase group which distanced Gogl on the climb. Meanwhile, Rasmus Guldhammer (Cult) took over the pace-setting in the main group as a fading Hermans was dropped alongside Kristoff.

 

In the steepest part, Zakarin launched a strong attack and Taaramae was dropped immediately after he had been forced to do all the work for an entire lap. Dillier also lost contact and it briefly seemed like the Russian would take it all.

 

However, Dillier managed to get back and an impressive Taaramae also managed to rejoin the front group just before they reached the summit and he went straight to the front to maximize his time gains. At this point, Hermans had completely given up and was 1.15 behind. Meanwhile, Bystrøm attacked from the chase group and he immediately distanced Frank, Tolhoek and Meintjes.

 

Taaramae didn’t get any help and led the front trio under the flamme rouge, followed by Zakarin and Dillier. Zakarin launched a long sprint and briefly seemed like he was able to hold Dillier off but the Swiss narrowly passed him and managed to take the biggest win of his career. Bystrøm held off his chasers and finished the stage in fourth while Ramus Guldhammer (Cult), Odd Christian Eiking (Joker), Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) and Anthony Turgis (Cofidis) caught the chase group in the finale and it was the Dane who won the sprint for fifth.

 

Hermans reached the finish with a time loss of 1.36 and so Taaramae took the overall win with an 8-second advantage over Dillier while Zakarin was 23 seconds further adrift in third. Hermans dropped to 9th in the overall standings.

 

Kristoff won the points jersey while Jensen won the mountains competition. Dillier was the best young rider while BMC won the teams classification.

 

With the Arctic Race of Norway done and dusted, the two weeks of Scandinavian racing have come to an end and the riders will now head into a quieter week that is dominated by the USA Pro Challenge and the Tour du Limousin before the Vuelta a Espana kicks off on Saturday.

 

A hilly stage

After yesterday’s queen stage, the overall win was still up for grabs in the final stage which brought the riders over 165km around the city of Narvik. First they did a lap of a mostly flat circuit with just one smaller climb before they got to the finale where they would do the 10.5km finishing circuit thrice. It included a tough climb and a slightly uphill finale and as they would do most of a full lap in the beginning, they would tackle both four times.

 

It was another beautiful and sunny day in Norway when they gathered for the start of the race. All riders that finished yesterday’s stage were present as they rolled out of their neutral ride.

 

Kristoff wins the sprint

As many had expected the race got off to a very fast start with lots of attacks. Haavard Blikra (Coop) and Gogl were the first to try and were joined by Carl Fredrik Hagen (Sparebanken). However, that move was brought back.

 

Michael Kolar, Elmiger, Bennett, Davide Frattini, Joeaar, Hagen, Blikra, Sinkeldam, Russell Downing, Gogl, Borgersen, Jean-Marc Bideau, Perrig Quemeneur, Haller, Mario Costa, Angelo Tulik and Petit were among the many riders to give it a go in the hectic opening phase. However, things were still together at the first intermediate sprint after 18.5km of racing where Katusha took control. Bystrøm, Haller and Lagutin led Kristoff out and he managed to beat Max Walscheid (Giant-Alpecin) and Boasson Hagen to extend his lead in the points competition.

 

The break takes off

Immediately after the sprint, the break was formed as Elmiger, Joeaar, Eidsheim, Förster, Cam, Borgersen and Sinkeldam too off. They quickly got an advantage of 15 seconds before riders realized that they had missed the boat and started to attack but BMC attentively shut everything down.

 

Tim Declercq, Coop, Sparebanken, Tinkoff-Saxo and Froy were all active but they failed to make it back to the leaders who were 25 seconds ahead with 135km to go. That forced Sparebanken to the front and the Norwegian team started to chase hard.

 

Sparebanken give up

For a long time, the gap stayed around 15 seconds and when they stopped their work, Coop and Novo Nordisk tried to bridge the gap. However, Tom Bohli shut everything down for BMC.

 

Sparebanken went back to work and kept the gap at 15-20 seconds until they gave up with 120km to go. The Cult duo of Mager and Linus Gerdemann tried to bridge the gap and Jose Serpa and Declercq were also active. However, the situation calmed down with 115km to go and the gap started to grow quickly

 

BMC in control

With 107km to go, it was already 2.55 and this was the signal for BMC to kick into action. Campbell Flakemore and Bohli hit the front and they kept the situation between the 2- and 3-minute marks for a long time. Meanwhile, a big crash briefly split the field.

 

As they hit the first climb, the gap was still 3.00 and the escapees were working well together. Elmiger led Joeaar and Eidsheim over the top.

 

Europcar come to the fore

After the climb, BMC accelerated slightly and when Quemeneur also started to work for Europcar with 75km to go, the gap came down. It was 2.05 with 65km to go and 10km later it was just 1.30.

 

It stabilized around that mark for a while as Bohli, Flakemore and Quemeneur continued to set the pace. As they approached the main climb for the first time, the action heated up though, with the battle for position kicking in. Bora-Argon 18 was the first to take control before Joker too over and as they hit the climb, the gap was only 1.20.

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