Hundreds of cycling fans crowded alongside the final 500 metres and around the two giant LCD viewing screens at the Stage 1 finish in Egersund were left in shock as Dutchman Cees Bol (Team Sunweb) flew around the right side to steal the victory from a pair of Norwegian favourites at the Tour of Norway (UCI 2.HC) on Tuesday.
Bol blitzed the bunch sprint, including duelling rivals Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Dimension Data), at the end of the 168.2-kilometre race from Stavanger.
“It was a headwind, so I waited quite long,” Bol told Eurosport after the win. “I felt good and launched my sprint at the right moment.”
Reigning Romanian champion Eduard Grosu (Delko Marseille Provence) finished second just ahead of Kristoff and Lawrence Naesen (Lotto Soudal), while Boasson Hagen mysteriously dropped to 20th.
This year’s race comes just two days after a majority of the teams participated in the opening of the 2019 Hammer Series in Stavanger. The ninth consecutive edition — 16th total — of the Tour of Norway is also the first edition since absorbing Tour des Fjords (2.HC) following the conclusion of both races last year.
While Kristoff and Boasson Hagen were battling out in the final, fellow Norwegian Kristoffer Halvorsen (Team Ineos) was making his way toward a fifth-place finish despite his team’s best effort in the closing 5km.
“The finish was really crazy,” claimed Halvorsen, who is just coming good after feeling ill following the Amgen Tour of California (ATOC) earlier this month. “We tried to be in front with 5k to go over the last bridge. It was pretty technical 1- or 2k to go. We were in good position, but we got a little bit flushed in the last [kilometre], so couldn’t really start the sprint.”
The win places the recent ATOC stage winner in the yellow leader’s jersey with five stages remaining, the majority of which are sprinter friendly. But with nearly a week to go and general classification (GC) aspirations for Swiss teammate Marc Hirschi, Bol is cautiously optimistic about his own further contention.
Bol edges Sagan in final stage as Pogacar takes overall victory
“Every day is a new day,” the 23-year-old Bol explained. “We also have some GC ambitions with Marc Hirschi, but for sure now for me we will try not to lose time and aim for some sprints as well — we will see how it goes.”
The race resumes on Wednesday with a 174km Stage 2 from Kvinesdal to Mandal.