Hopes still high in Tour de France

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The three Norwegian cyclists taking part in this year’s Tour de France haven’t gotten off to the winning start they’d hoped for. They all thought they stood a chance of winning one of the early stages, and none had as of its fourth day, but they weren’t giving up.

This year’s Tour de France started Saturday in a rainy Dusseldorf and paid homage to the German band Kraftverk and its classic “Tour de France” album pictured in the background here. All three participants from Norway want to repeat former Norwegian cycling star Thor Hushovd’s success in winning stages of the race. PHOTO: Tour de France

Alexander Kristoff, Norway’s top cyclist at present, was the latest to be disappointed on Tuesday. The sprinter from Stavanger was still was rather satisfied, though, with an impressive third place finish in the 207-kilometer run from Mondorf-les-Bains to Vittel.

“The team rode well,” Kristoff, age 29, told state broadcaster NRK, adding that he thought the race was easier than Monday’s and that he’ll “get stronger along the way.” He’s won two stages of the Tour de France before and cycles for the Russian Katusha team.

Edvald Boasson Hagen

Edvald Boasson Hagen, Norway’s 30-year-old all-around cyclist from just outside Lillehammer, had his whole Dimension Data team supporting him on Tuesday, but he ended in 12th place. His mission otherwise is to support Dimension Data star Mark Cavendish, but he was badly injured after a crash less than a 100 meters from the finish line. Cavendish worried he’d have to drop the rest of the Tour de France.

On Monday Hagen was disappointed as well when his legs just seemed to give out 150 meters short of the finish line in the third stage. “The guys on the team did a great job holding me in position, I was where I should have been on the uphill,” Hagen told newspaper Aftenposten, “but then my legs didn’t want to keep going.” He ended up in 27th place after 207.5 kilometers in the saddel.

The third lap through Luxembourg, from Verviers to Longwy in northern France, was seen as his big chance for a victory and chance to wear the coveted yellow lead jersey.  “The whole team has orders to cycle for Edvald today,” said Douglas Ryder, team director for the South Africa-based Dimension Data, before the race began. He was still full of praise for Hagen when it was over.

“We love having Edvald on the team,” Ryder said. “He means an enormous amount for us.”

Norwegian debut
The third Norwegian starting in the Tour de France is Vegard Stake Laengen, cycling for UAE Team Emirates. He’s a 28-year-old cyclist from Asker, west of Oslo, who’s making his Tour de France debut after placing sixth in the Tour of California this year and eighth in Gran Premio di Lugano. He’s also an all-around cyclist and has been among those assisting others on the team.

On the flat stretches of the early stages, though, Laengen can be expected to ride for himself with a chance of winning. So far he’s finished far behind, 118th on Monday for example, but he was pleased after avoiding several ugly crashes and injuries along the way on slick pavement.

“I’m happy,” he told Aftenposten. “I managed to stay on my cycle the whole day, with no crashes. Now it will be fun to continue.”

The Tour de France started over the weekend and runs until July 23.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund