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With a powerful sprint, Kristoff easily came around Howard in the reduced bunch sprint on stage 2 of the Tour des Fjords; Howard retained the lead

Photo: Sirotti

ALEXANDER KRISTOFF

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IAM CYCLING

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KATUSHA ALPECIN

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LEIGH HOWARD

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NIKOLAI TRUSSOV

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TOUR DES FJORDS

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01.09.2016 @ 18:19 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After yesterday’s huge chaos, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) got his revenge in the second stage of the Tour des Fjords as he powered to victory in the tough second stage of the race. Having made it over a tough climb in the reduced peloton and even contributed to the chase personally, the local hero was in a class of his own when he came around Leigh Howard (IAM) in the sprint to take his first victory in this year’s race. Nikolai Trusov (Tinkoff) completed the podium and Howard retained the lead.

 

Yesterday Alexander Kristoff couldn’t hide his huge frustration when the chaos in the finale of stage 1 of the Tourd des Fjords had cost him what looked like a guaranteed win. The Norwegian and Katusha had everything under control when the peloton was led the wrong way and in the confusion, a trio got away and held off the peloton

 

Kristoff found it hard to understand why the race hadn’t been re-started and didn’t mince his words after the stage. He woke up to the pleasant news that all time gaps had been neutralized and that only the bonus seconds were taken into account and so he remained very much in overall contention when he rolled out for today’s second stage.

 

Kristoff was in a determined mood to get his revenge in his home race which he won two years ago and today he did not leave anything to chance or anyone doubting who is the best sprinter in the race. The Katusha rider made the selection over a tough climb in the finale and then powered to victory in a reduced bunch sprint.

 

After the relatively flat first stage, the first selection was expected to be made in the second stage. The 202.3km course brought the riders from Stord to Odda and was mainly flat. After an early intermediate sprint, the peloton tackled the first climb when they exited the spectacular Bømlafjord Tunnel. From there they headed along flat roads while contesting the final two intermediate sprints with 96.6km and 76.7km to go respectively. The key challenge was the 8.8km climb to Grostøl whose summit comes with 22.2km to go. From there, the riders descended to the flat and non-technical finish.

 

Brice Feillu (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) was the only non-starter when the peloton gathered on another rainy day in Norway. Like yesterday, it was a very fast start with lots of attacks.

 

After a few kilometres, a dangerous 12-ride group with Michael Mørkøv (Katusha) got an advantage of 20 seconds but at the 15km mark they were brought back. Katusha then kept things together for the first intermediate sprint and after a great lead-out, Kristoff beat Howard and his teammate Mørkøv.

 

The peloton entered Bømlafjord Tunnel and as expected, it split to pieces on the climb back up to sea level. Christian Mager (Stölting) beat Carl Fredik Hagen (Sparebanken), Asmund Løvi (FixIT) and Damiano Caruso (BMC) in the KOM sprint but they were all brought back after the top. The riders covered 44km during the fast first hour.

 

After 50km of racing, the peloton was split in two big groups, with the first 50-rider bunch having a 40-second advantage. As the attacks continued, the gap remained relatively stable for a while but things finally came back together.

 

There was no end to the attacks that continued until 8 rider finally managed to get clear. William Clarke (Drapac), Michael Reihs (Stölting), Kenny de Ketele (Topsport), Martjin Budding (Rabobank Dev), Jonas Gregaard (Riwal), Bjørn Tore Hoem (Joker-Byggtorget), Ole André Austevoll (Coop-Østerhus) and Andreas Vangstad (Team Sparebanken Sør) worked hard to build an advantage of 20 seconds and then the peloton finally slowed down. At the 65km mark, the gap had already gone out to four minutes.

 

The gap slowly continued to grow and had reached 5 minutes after 80km of racing and while Peter Koning (Drapac) left the race, the peloton started to control the situation. Meanwhile, Clarke beat De Ketele and Hoem in the next intermediate sprint.

 

Rain started to fall while IAM and Ringeriks-Kraft set the pace in the peloton, keeping the gap at five minutes. Moments later, Clarke beat Hoem and Budding in the final intermediate sprint.

 

With 65km to go, the gap was still 5.15 and this forced the WorldTour teams to react. An alliance between IAM, BMC and Katusha was formed as Fabien Lienhard (BMC), Dmitriy Kozontuck (Katusha), Roger Kluge an Stef Clement (IAM) traded pulls on the front.

 

The injection of pace had a big effect as the gap came down quickly. As they hit the final 50km, the gap was down to just 2.30 as they tackled the many small climbs on the narrow roads. Surprisingly, Sondre Holst Enger (IAM) was dropped in the hard terrain.

 

Clement, Kluge, Kozontchuk and Lienhard continued to ride hard and while riders slowly fell off the pace, they reduced the gap to 1.45 with 40km to go. Hence, the escapees were forced to react and when they hit a small climb with 35km to go, Wilsly took a huge turn that sent Clarke out the back door.

 

On the next climb, the group split even more as Wilsly, Hoem and Vangstad dropped their companions. The Dane even rode away from the two Norwegians and then soloed towards the top with an advantage of 1.15.

 

The attacking started in the peloton when Damiano Caruo (BMC), Remy Di Gregorio (Delko), Karel Hnik (Verva, Carl Fredrik Hagen (Sparebanken) and Pieter Weening (Roompot) attacked. They sprinted past Reihs and quickly got a gap.

 

While Katusha led the chase in the peloton, the quintet worked well together to catch the chase group that had gathered behind the lone leader. The Dane reached the top with an advantage of around 40 seconds.

 

There was no great cooperation in the chase group and as they were losing ground, Caruso tried to attack. He failed to get clear though and so the group stayed together. It was Nils Politt (Katusha) doing all the work in the peloton which had been whittled down to around 30 riders.

 

With 23 km to go, Wilsly was caught by Weening, Caruso, Hagen, Hnik, Di Gregorio, Hoem and Vangstad. The group continued to ride hard in an effort to keep the peloton at bay and things were briefly looking promising. Moments later, Di Gregorio won the final KOM sprint

 

Politt finally got some help from Kluge and a Roth rider as they entered the final 20km. Even Kristoff came to the fore to take some turns and that made a big difference. With 10km to go, the break was brought back and things were heading for a bunch sprint.

 

Michael Schär (BMC), Alexander Kamp (Stölting) and Tim Kerkhof (Roompot) tried to deny the sprinters and stayed clear for a few kilometres while Politt led the chase. The Roompot ride tried to continue on his own and while he dug deep to stay clear, Joey Rosskopf (BMC) and Huub Duijn (Roompot) made failed attempt to get clear.

 

Coop hit the front with Ole Austevoll who led the chase behind the lone Dutchman. Politt also returned to the front and his massive turns kept Kerkhof within a reasonable distance.

 

As Politt started to fade, Vegard Breen (Fortuneo) took off in pursuit of Kerkhof but BMC reacted immediately. The American team lined up Rossopf and Schär on the front and while a small crash that involved Sjoerd van Ginneken (Roompot) and Eliot Lietaer (Topsport) split the field, they brought the two attackers back.

 

Schär led the peloton under the flamme rouge as he tried to set Caruso up for a stage win. However, it was race leader Leigh Howard who launched a long sprint, trying to surprise Kristoff. The Norwegian reacted quickly, jumped onto the Australian’s wheel and then easily came around to take a clear victory. Nikolai Trusov was a distant third.

 

With the second place, Howard retained the lead with a two-second advantage over Kristoff. He faced a tough challenge tomorrow on the third day when the peloton will travel a massive 221.2km from Ulvik to Suldalsosen. The first 75km are almost completely flat and include the first intermediate sprint at the 71.1km mark. Then the riders will tackle the long climb of Røldalsfjellet whose top at more than 1000m of above sea level comes at the 102.8km mark. A short descent leads to the 8.5km climb of Kringletjørn. The top comes with 101.6km to go and the descent is followed by flat roads that include two intermediate sprints with 69.8km and 31km to go respectively. The finale is flat and non-technical.

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