UPDATED: The scenic Norwegian international cycling event that’s become an annual tradition, Arctic Race of Norway, began in Harstad in northern Norway on Thursday, under the patronage of Queen Sonja. She agreed for the second year in a row to be royally attached to the event, which ended its first day with a Norwegian victory.
The race runs through Sunday, with four stages over winding routes in both Nordland and Troms counties. Cyclists from some of the world’s top teams are riding their way through Harstad, Enskjer, Setermoen, Senja, Målselv and Narvik, on roads that run along the sea, mountainsides and over summits. Thursday’s race was covering 213.5 kilometers
Norway’s recently retired cycling champion Thor Hushovd has been dubbed “ambassador” for the race and he’s optimistic that Norway will continue to attract top cycling events. Tor Hegreberg, director of Tour des Fjords, agreed: “The interest is so keen, the nature so spectacular and interest in cycling in Norway is nearly insatiable.”
Current Norwegian cycling star Alexander Kristoff, who didn’t do well in the recent Tour de France, hoped to win some stages of the Arctic Race but didn’t think he had much chance of winning the overall event. He was the best of the pack on Thursday, though, racing to victory on Thursday after a duel with fellow Norwegian cyclist Edvald Boasson Hagen, who’s also in Harstad for the race.
Newspaper Aftenposten described the finish as being “almost as ordered” for the Norwegian hosts and spectators. Kristoff’s victory was his 19th and he was jubilant, while Hagen upset after one of Kristoff’s teammates, Marco Haller, seemed to hinder Hagen near the end. Hagen responded by pushing him off, “and almost making Haller crash,” Kristoff said when it was all over, “so it wasn’t perfect behaviour by either of them.”