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After Kristoff had shut down his first attack, Boasson Hagen went again and held off his chasers to take his second consecutive double at the Norwegian championships; Kristoff narrowly beat Halvorsen in the sprint for second

Photo: A.S.O.

ALEXANDER KRISTOFF

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EDVALD BOASSON HAGEN

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26.06.2016 @ 18:56 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Edvald Boason Hagen (Dimension Data) again proved that he is back his best level by riding to a fantastic solo win in the Norwegian road race championships. After Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) had covered his first move on the main climb, he went again inside the final kilometre and this time no one could follow. Kristoff beat Kristoffer Halvorsen (Joker) in the sprint for second.

 

All year, Edvald Boasson Hagen has proved that he is very close to returning to the level that marked him out as maybe the biggest talent a few years ago. Most recently, he showed his great form at the Criterium du Dauphiné where he took his first WorldTour win for several years.

 

However, Boasson Hagen still faced an uphill battle if he wanted to defend his title in today’s Norwegian road race championships. A mostly flat course meant that Alexander Kristoff went into the race as the big favourite.

 

Boasson Hagen was unfazed by the situation and he first attacked on the main climb with 6km to go. Kristoff managed to respond and when it all came back together, it looked like an easy win for Kristoff. However, Boasson Hagen went again as they hit the slightly rising final kilometre and this time Kristoff had nothing left. Boasson Hagen dug deep to hold off his chasers and rode to a beautiful solo win.

 

In brilliant sunshine, the riders gathered for 16 laps an 11.8 kilometers circuit and a 188.8km race in Bodø. It was a relatively flat course but a small break climb at the halfway point and some technical sections were expected to provide some challenges.

 

Led by the ten pros, the riders travelled through the neutral zone before the attacking started. August Jensen (Coop) was the first rider to get a small gap, the local rider being very interested in making a solid showing at home, and he would turn out to be a key figure in the race.

 

A few minutes later, a large group of 15 riders, including Kristoffer Skjerping (Cannondale), got a gap. And of course, August Jensen was again there and the pair were joined by local rider Andreas Sandnes Olsen (Coop).

 

The group was whittled down to 11, with Amund Grondahl Jansen and Adrian Aas Stien (Joker), Carl Fredrik Hagen (Sparebanken), Torjus Sleen (Lillehammer CK), Torstein Træen (Ringeriks-Kraft ), Lars Saugstad (Ringerike SK), Adrian Gjølberg (Fixit.no) and Anton Tuns (TVK) making up the rest of the move. Thus all continental teams were represented and satisfied with the situation.

 

At the start of the fifth lap, the gap was two minutes and it was Lillehammer CK and Coop who controlled affair. Especially, Coop did a lot of work to keep the situation under control

 

The distance remained stable during both the sixth and seventh laps. Only a bike change for Ole Forfang (Team Joker-Building Square) who had problems with the chain, and seat problems for Daniel Hoelgaard (FDJ) created some action.

 

Unfortunately, Jensen had technical problems, and without help from the neutral service car, he lost contact with the break and had to drop back to the peloton. Lars Saugstad was also dropped.

 

With Jensen out of the group, it was apparent that the dynamics changed somewhat, and the cooperation was clearly better. The gap increased rapidly, and at the end of the ninth laps, the gap was 2.22.

 

Coop and Lillehammer CK upped the pace and the gap came down by 30 seconds in a very short time. It would continue to decline, with Coop going full gas. With 67 kilometers to go, it was only 1.15.

 

With Alexander Kristoff, Fredrik Strand Galta and Krister Hagen on the back of the train, Coop ØSTERHUS still had the initiative in the peloton which was now greatly reduced. With five laps left, it was down to about 40 riders, and they were now really applying the pressure.

 

With 53km to go, the attacks started in the break. First it was Adrian Gjølberg before Amund Grondahl Jansen and Adrian Aas Stien took over. The two Joker riders led over the top of the climb and Torstein Træen lost touch.

 

The group descended at great speed, and in a technical section, Adrian Gjølberg crashed. That led to a split in the group, and Aas Stien, Grondahl Jansen and Skjerping set off alone. With four laps to go, they had the a gap of about 15 seconds to Andreas Sandnes Olsen, Carl Fredrik Hagen, Torjus Sleen and Torstein Træen. Anton Tuns had lost ground and the peloton was now 1.30 behind.

 

With the break fragmented and only three riders in the lead, the peloton accelerated hard. As they hit the climb, there was a big attack from Joker’s Anders Skaarseth.

 

He came at high speed from behind and managed to get a solid gap over the top. The attack was a catalyst that triggered a series of attacks and accelerations in the field. In a difficult turn down, a Ringeriks-Kraft rider crashed while attacks continued to occur in the flat section at the bottom of the hill.

 

Lillehammer CK was active with two riders in the front, and Sven Erik Bystrøm was also aggressive. However, it all came back together and Skaarseth was also caught.

 

Coop returned to the front of the field but had fewer riders left to up the pace. Hence, the gap to the front trio was no longer coming down.

 

However, when Andreas Vangstad attacked on the next lap, the pace again increased. The Sparebanken Sør rider didn’t get away, but the gap was down to 40 seconds with two laps remaining.

 

Kristoff’s domestiques again took command in the small field. Boasson Hagen had also asked his Lillehammer friends to work and especially Tobias Foss did a very good job.

 

It was soon over for the trio in front. Grondahl Jansen went solo 20 kilometers from the finish while the other two were brought back. The Joker rider did  not have more than 15-20 seconds of advantage with 18 kilometers left.

 

With 15 kilometers to go, he was caught by teammate Markus Hoelgaard and a duo had been established. With nine kilometers left, Grondahl Jansen was left behind.

 

Markus Hoelgaard was alone in front with a lead of around20 seconds. Rasmus Tillers took a big turn to reduce the gap before they hit the climb

 

Here Edvald Boasson Hagen attacked hard. Kristoff, Vegard Stake Laengen and Sondre Holst Enger followed but the IAM duo lost touch when Stake Laengen went down.

 

In the peloton, Joker chased hard and with 3.3km to go, it was back together. Several attacks followed but Bystrøm held it together for Kristoff.

 

However, it was all in vain as the Katusha rider had nothing left when Boasson Hagen attacked with less than one kilometre to go. No one could follow and after he had soloed across the line, Kristoff narrowly beat Kristoffer Halvorsen in the sprint for second.

 

Boasson Hagen will first wear his jersey at the Tour de France as he is almost guaranteed to get selected.

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