Hermans looking to carry form into Arctic Race of Norway
The BMC all-rounder is aware of his tag as the pre-race favourite but isn’t letting the pressure get to him.
"This year I’ve had more chances for myself and the team have given me more races where I could be the leader where I could play my cards. Also I’ve had some luck in some races," Hermans told the press before stage 1.
The four-day Arctic race of Norway starts with a 213.5km stage starting and finishing in Harstad. It should suit the powerful sprinters, with Hermans an outsider for the stage.
"Regarding the last few races I think I’ve got a fair chance here. The parcours suits me but there are a lot of other guys who are strong, like [Mathias] Frank. I also hope that this race, and then a few more races can bring me to a higher level for the Worlds but I have to still make sure I’m in the selection there."
Hometown favourite Boasson Hagen
At the pre-race team presentation at the coastal resort of Harstad the most rapturous applause was reserved for national treasures Alexander Kristoff and Edvald Boasson Hagen. The latter is making his debut in the race and is a favourite for at least one stage win.
"I’m looking forward to racing here. My form was good at the Tour of Denmark but also at the Tour de France. I’m really looking forward to seeing how I go but I could be tired. I felt good coming out of the Tour but the heat took it out of me," he said.
"There are expectations on me, that’s for sure but hopefully I can do my best and get some results. There are some hard stages and for GC it’s going to be tough.
"As for other riders Alexander is always good but I’ve not had a chance to look at the start list yet."
Hushovd: Every stage will be key
Thor Hushovd, now an ambassador for the race, believes that this year’s route offers up so many possible scenarios that the final overall winner will have to fight for every stage.
Hushovd, who won the inaugural edition of the race in 2013, pinpoints stage 3 with its major climb to Målselv as crucial, but warned that the overall lead could still change on the final day’s racing.
"The climb at Målselv is a short climb but it’s steep. It’s around 8 per cent all the way up and that is where you’ll see the four or five riders who could win on GC. Stage 4 is really hard and the climb is technical, so you’ll have a really exciting final day. It’s not certain that the rider leading after stage 3 will be the winner at the finish of the race. You need a strong team to control this race," Hushovd said.
"I think it’s a good parcours. You have four stages and they can all have four different scenarios. You have the first stage here and it’s a hard sprint. It’s too hard for the typical sprinter, like Kristoff so you might have a different winner. Stage 2 is a sprinter stage but stage 3 is for a climber."
Race future secure
Before the race began ASO and main sponsor Statoil confirmed that the event would take place for a further three seasons.
"The North of Norway is an important region for Statoil and we want to contribute to promote and develop the area," Eldar Sætre, CEO of Statoil said in a press release.
"Arctic Race of Norway has through its first two years established itself firmly on the international cycling calendar and as an attraction in the north. We are glad to renew the constructive partnership with the Arctic Race and look forward to this year`s race and the three following years."