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After a well-timed attack from a small group, Kragh beat Hoem in a 2-rider sprint to win the hard stage 4 of the Tour des Fjords; Kristoff won the sprint for fourth and retained the lead

Photo: Feltet.dk / Henriette Brandt

ALEXANDER KRISTOFF

RIDER PROFILE
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ASBJØRN KRAGH ANDERSEN

RIDER PROFILE
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BJØRN TORE HOEM

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CHRISTIAN MAGER

NEWS

KATUSHA ALPECIN

TEAM PROFILE
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NIPPO DELKO PROVENCE

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TOUR DES FJORDS

RACE PROFILE
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03.09.2016 @ 19:16 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

One year after his brother’s win in the same stage, Asbjørn Kragh Andersen (Delko) left a disappointing year behind by taking the biggest win of his career in the hard stage 4 of the Tour des Fjords. Having made it back to the front with 1km to go, he attacked with Bjørn Tore Hoem (Joker) and finally beat his companion in the sprint to take the victory. Christian Mager (Stölting) attacked to take third while Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) won the sprint for fourth and retained the lead.

 

One year ago, the international cycling world learned about the talented Søren Kragh Andersen when the young Dane dropped Alexander Kristoff and won the tough stage to Sandnes at the Tour des Fjords. The Dane was rewarded with a professional contract with Giant-Alpecin and has already proved himself at the highest level.

 

Søren’s brother Asbjørn has had a slower start to his career but still turned professional with the Delko team for the 2016 season. However, a series of health issues has destroyed the first part of his pro career which has been made up of disappointments.

 

In the last few months, he has slowly returned to form though and today he returned to the scene where his brother broke through 12 months ago when he lined up for stage four of the Tour des Fjords. The stage ended on the same tough circuit in Sandnes where a late climb 3km from the finish made it an obvious chance for the strong Danish puncheur.

 

Impressively, Kragh managed to follow in the footsteps of his brother by claiming his first pro win in strong fashion. Having lost contact on the final climb, he made it back to the leaders at the flamme rouge and then went straight on the attack. He got Bjørn Tore Hoem for company and easily beat his companion in the sprint.

 

After yesterday’s tough stage, the puncheurs were expected to come to the fore on stage 4 which brought the riders over 163.4km from Stavanger to Sandnes. The first part was completely flat and included a sprint at the 29.1km mark. Then the riders tackled the 1.5km Fjermestad and 2.7km Seldal climbs with 97km and 65.8km to go respectively and contested an intermediate sprint at the 77.5km mark. The stage ends with two laps of an 11.5km finishing circuit that included a small climb (900m, 8.5%) just 3.8km from the finish.

 

For the first time this week, the riders had nice sunshine when they gathered for the start and of course there were lots of attacks right from the start. Christophe Laborie (Delko) took off as soon as the flag was dropped. Together with four more riders, including Carl Fredrik Hagen (Sparebanken), he got a small advantage.

 

Surprisingly, the peloton seemed to be content with the situation and as they slowed down, a Tinkoff rider took off in pursuit. He quickly bridged the gap and so six riders had gathered in front again. They increased their advantage over the chasers to 30 seconds.

 

The attacking started again and suddenly both Alexander Kristoff and his teammate Alexander Porsev had joined the leaders. That forced the peloton to react and so the group was brought back.

 

Mattias Brändle (IAM) made a big attack but it was the counterattack that worked. Hampus Anderberg (ColoQuick), Floris Gerts (BMC), Erik Baska (Tinkoff), Mathias Krizek (Roth) and Hagen managed to surge clear and they quickly got a solid advantage. After 13km, it had gone out to a minute and as Kristoff stopped for a natural break, it increased very quickly. When the race leader was back in the peloton, it was 2.50.

 

Surprisingly, it took a very long time for the peloton to start their chase and so the gap had gone out to 9.40 when Anderberg led Baska and Gerts across the line in the first intermediate sprint after 28km of racing. At this point, John Ebsen (ONE) was in lone pursuit but he was not getting any closer and so he soon sat up.

 

The chase finally got organized when the gap had gone out to more than 10 minutes and unsurprisingly it was the Katusha team that hit the front. Anton Vorboyev did the early work and soon got some help from a Coop rider and one from Blitz-Merida. The trio kept the gap stable at around 10 minutes for a long time.

 

With 110km to go, Verva also came to the fore and that slowly made a difference. With four teams riding on the front, the gap had dropped to 8.45 with 90km to go. Meanwhile, Baska led Anderberg and Gerts across the line in the second intermediate sprint and Hagen beat Krizek, Baska and Anderberg in the first KOM sprint

 

Verva, Coop and Vorobyev shared the workload as they passed through the feed zone and slowly reduced the gap. It was 7.30 when the escapees hit the first climb with 70km to go. Hagen led Gerts, Krizek and Anderberg over the top and so extended his lead in the KOM classification.

 

With 50km to go, the gap was still 5.25 and now Dmitriy Kozontchuk (Katusha) lent a hand to Vorobyev and the riders from Coop and Verva. However, as rain started to fall, they were not getting any closer as they only took back 25 seconds during the next 10km.

 

The chase regained momentum and as they hit the final 30km, the gap was down to 3.45. Moments later they went up the climb for the first time where Hagen led the group to the top. Katusha took it easy up the climb with Michael Mørkøv pacing them up the ascent and then crested the summit 2.45 behind the leaders.

 

The front group were still 2.45 ahead when the crossed the line for the first time and now Coop led the chase in the peloton. They quickly brought the gap down to two minutes

 

As they tackled the first lap of the circuit, Joker hit the front with Reidar Borgersen. With the entire team riding on the front, they reduced the gap fast and it was only 1.20 with 15km to go. Here a big crash split the field, with Alexander Kamp (Stölting) being one of the riders to go down.

 

As they hit the climb, Bjørn Tore Hoem (Joker) attacked and only Kristoff, Lorenzo Fortunato, Damiano Caruso and Christian Mager could follow. Meanwhile, Hagen dropped the rest of the break and soloed to the top to win the KOM sprint ahead of Gerts and Anderberg. Krizek and Baska were dropped.

 

Hagen continued his attack and crossed the finish line with a small advantage over his two chasers. Further back, more riders had caught the Kristoff group and with Roompot setting the pace, around 15 riders had gathered. A bigger group was chasing a few secondsfurther back.

 

As they approached the climb, the attacking started and it was Huub Duijn (Roompot) who managed to get clear. More riders took off but as soon Kristoff’s teammates returned with the bigger group, Nils Politt and Mørkøv rode on the front to bring the attackers back. At the same time, Gerts and Anderberg made it back to Hagen.

 

The front trio hit the final 7km with an advantage of 20 seconds. Politt and Mørkøv led the peloton onto the ascent and then Alexander Porsev took over.

 

Hagen attacked as soon as the road steepened but he was unable to get rid of Gerts who even passed him and made his own attack. Meanwhile Pieter Weening upped the pace in the peloton but even though the group exploded, Kristoff didn’t give him an inch. Mager tried to counter but Kristoff and Caruso hung on as they crested the summit.

 

Kristoff went to the front on the descent and with a big turn, he closed the gap to the two leaders just before the flamme rouge. Just as the junction was made, a bigger group latched onto the back and so 10-15 riders entered the final kilometre together.

 

Asbjørn Kragh Andersen and Bjørn Tore Hoem attacked as soon as the group had latched onto the back and as there were no teammates to lead the chase, the pair got a big advantage. Hoem rode on the front to maintain the gap and so he had no response when Kragh launched the sprint. The Dane easily came around to take the biggest win of his career. Mager made a late attack and managed to take third, 3 seconds behind the leaders, with Kristoff winning the sprint for third in the same time as the German.

 

Fourth place was enough for Kristoff to retain his 20-second advantage over Michael Schär (BMC) and Nick van der Lijke (Roompot). However, he faces another stern test tomorrow in the final stage There’s an early climb after 16.9km of racing but from there the riders will travel along mainly flat roads to the finishing city while contesting the intermediate sprints at the 31.2km, 69.1km and 109.1km marks. With 49.1km to go, they will hit the 18.8km finishing circuit which includes the steep 1100m climb of Sørmarksbakken just 8.7km from the finish. The riders will do almost a full lap before they get to the finish for the first time and as they will do two laps in the end, they will tackle the climb a total of three times. The final 3km are flat and very technical with numerous turns in the final kilometre. Last year the GC changed on the final stage and so Kristoff can expect to come under attack.

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