TEAM BELKIN PRESS RELEASE:
The Belkin Pro Cycling TEAM's rising Norwegian star, Lars Petter Nordhaug, took the greatest victory of his career Thursday, winning the 204km first stage of the 2014 Arctic Tour of Norway from Hammerfest to Nordkapp.
The 30-year-old from Tonsberg, who won the race's King of the Mountains competition last year, finished all alone with enough time to kiss his wedding ring at the finish line. Teammates Steven Kruijswijk and Jonathan Hivert rounded out the top five just seconds later, finishing third and fifth respectively behind second-place finisher Davide Vilella of Cannondale.
Lars Petter Nordhaug
"For a Norwegian to win in Norway, in this special place, is really good. I was feeling super today," Nordhaug said on worldwide television immediately after the stage. "I have to thank my team for pulling at the front. We are three in the top five, so that's amazing."
The Belkin boys, led by Kruijswijk, controlled most of the stage through the dramatic, rolling tundra of Norway's Finnmark region above the Arctic Circle, the northernmost part of Europe and the farthest north pro cycling has ever ventured.
The six-man squad rode at the front of the peloton the entire race, then dominated the final kilometers as the race blew apart in crosswinds. Frenchmen Hivert and Dutchmen Nick van der Lijke controlled attacks from other teams hoping to launch their sprinters; but Nordhaug, seeking victory in his home country, proved to be the strongest man of the day, launching a series of blistering attacks, the last one taking him alone to the finish line.
With Kruijswijk, who placed 15th overall in this year's Tour de France, poised to follow through in the remaining stages, the Belkin Pro Cycling TEAM is in a very good position to capitalize in the coming days. "We're the strongest team here," Nordhaug said. "There are two stages for sprinters, but our goal is the overall classification."
The Arctic Tour of Norway resumes Friday with a rolling, 207km second stage from Honningsvag south to Alta, with an especially sharp, 3.5km climb from below sea level out of the Nordkapp Tunnel early on. The four-day race, in its second year, concludes Sunday in Tromso.